Little did I know when I booked a trip home to Baltimore about six weeks ago that the day I would be leaving was also the day of the 17th Annual Baltimore Running Festival. Staying in a downtown hotel right in the center of the festivities was going to make it impossible to get out of town without leaving the hotel a lot earlier than originally planned.
So in spirit of “if you can’t beat ’em – join ’em” I left the hotel early and walked, rolling suitcase and all, among the crowds gathered to watch the runners as they began their trek. I couldn’t help but think of it all in the context of what this means for the runners and for those of us watching and cheering from the sidelines.
The goal of the marathon is to get to the finish line. Of course, for the elite runners – like Jordon Tropf who won the Baltimore marathon – their goal is to finish first. He did so in a total time of 2:28:06. For the majority of runners, the goal is the challenge. “I can do this” is the mantra they hear replayed in their heads from the moment they start to train until they cross the finish line. Whether you are the first person to finish in under 3 hours or the last person who finishes in 8 hours – it is a huge sense of achievement.
Whether you are 15, 25, 52 or 80 years old, whether you are fit or disabled, whether you do the 5k, the half marathon or the full marathon – the goal is the same – to push yourself and accomplish the task at hand. We are inspired by the participants in the hand cranked bikes or those pushing disabled children or friends in wheelchairs.
Those of us watching and cheering from the sidelines or at home while watching on TV play a very important role in providing support and encouragement to those in the marathon. How many times might a runner have given up but for the encouragement of friends and strangers along the way.
We should look at our lives as a marathon. Set a goal and work towards achieving that goal. Don’t look at the finish line as some place that is so far away we will never get there. Put one foot in front of the other, train, practice and keep moving forward – you can do this! We can do this!! We can encourage others to cross their own finish lines whether it is getting that high school degree, going to college, getting a job or just making it through another day when facing incredibly difficult challenges. It is not always a race in the sense of a run or walk but could be just working towards our own goal – sometimes a more difficult marathon of sorts for many of us. Look around you and find the people whose day-to-day marathon you can cheer on, someone you could lift up and help across their finish line. Look to those who are lifting you up and helping you achieve your own goals and cross your own finish line. It may be difficult but it is so worth it!
I recently went through a very difficult time which would have been all the more difficult but for the support of family and dear friends. My close friend Louise, who was constantly in touch and showing support, sent me a copy of a post originally published on Wendy Atterberry’s relationship advice blog “Dear Wendy.”
The point of the post was that despite how busy and demanding our lives have become, the single most important thing that we can do for our friends is to show up – show up when it really matters, show up even when it may be inconvenient, show up when it really counts. This I have always tried to practice.
The challenge now that I have moved to another state is how to show up when you live over 1000 miles apart. How do you make sure you have a presence in their lives when you are not present? How do you show up from a distance? Here are four suggested ways to do it and make each time count. Remember it is the quality of the contact and not the quantity that matters most.
- Forget Technology – reach out and touch. While texting and emailing are both convenient and quick, they are also impersonal and create even more distance between you and your friends. PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL!! You can hear the smile on your friend’s face. You can hear the sadness in her voice when she is down. You can tell so much more by speaking in person. Keep the texts and emails for the short quick check-ins or when sending photos of experiences or your new surroundings.
- Don’t keep score over who called last. It really doesn’t matter who called whom last. What matters is that the friendship remains intact and you show up for each other – just pick up the phone and call. If that becomes uncomfortable then what you really need to ask yourself is whether or not the relationship is one that you really want to hold on to or has it reached a point where you need to accept letting go.
- Send a card or letter. What a concept! Send someone a written document that they can actually hold in their hands and read and re-read when they need encouragement. There is something about knowing that someone took the time to pick out a card or write the perfect note or words of encouragement that makes your spirit soar. It doesn’t have to be an expensive card or a lengthy note but it is a tangible piece of you that becomes a gift to your friend.
- Don’t fall back on excuses! “I thought you might be busy.” “I didn’t know if you would be home.” I wasn’t sure of the time difference.” These are all excuses that we have all heard or used to justify why we have not stayed in touch. If you are truly in a valued relationship, if you truly want to keep that friendship going from a distance, these excuses will never cross your lips again. You didn’t know whether your friend was home or not when you lived closer, what difference does that make now? It really makes me smile to hear a message from a friend who thought of me and took the time to call and leave a message. I do the same. My mother used to always want to know when I was coming back from a trip not so much to call when I was home but to call and leave a message on my answering machine welcoming me home. They were the sweetest messages I ever received.
Think of how important your relationships are to you. Find ways to show up to let them know that you still have a presence in their lives even if you cannot be physically present. Whether for matters large or small, happy or sad or just because, love knows no boundaries so let’s not let anything get in the way!
*“Showing Up: The Single Most Important Thing a Friend Can do” by Wendy Relationship advice columnist at DearWendy.com.