In our school district this week, we are celebrating Random Acts of Kindness. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to do things out of kindness for others. One of the activities is schools are having guest speakers. At the junior high, the guest speaker was Adam Kimble, who’s a local guy who’s also a bit of a celebrity — he’s an ultra-runner possibly best known for his success on Discovery Channel’s survival show The Wheel.
He spoke about the role kindness played in the opportunities and successes he’s had in his life and his adventures — kindness to others, from others, and to himself. It was actually a very interesting take on his many experiences — one that I am sure many people don’t think much about, the role that different types of kindness plays is different events of our lives. At the end of his talk, he also spoke briefly about gratitude. He mentioned the gratitude he had for people who helped him during his races and total strangers who helped him and his crew when he ran across the United States. He spoke about the role that others played in his successes, which got me thinking about this:
Now, I am not here to debate the politics associated with President Obama, but this speech drew tons of ire from people who worked their rear ends off to build successful businesses. There was snark and sarcasm to spare from people who were offended by his remarks. Hearing Adam speak today about kindness and gratitude made me think how misguided people were who took offense at what Obama said. Let me share an example from my personal life.
In 2017, I ran the Chicago marathon. Notice the pronoun. I. Because I did indeed do it. I crossed that start line and 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 hard, painful, grueling seconds later, I crossed that finish line. I did it. Me. But it would be so incredibly misleading and downright arrogant of me to say nobody else in this world played a role in what is probably the biggest success story of my whole life, probably my proudest personal accomplishment. Because I absolutely did not do it alone at all! My friends Larry and Cathy really nudged me in the direction of running that marathon. My husband granted me all the time I needed to be able to devote hours and hours to training for weeks on end. Many people, both known to me and unknown, donated toward my charity fundraiser. The coaches with Team in Training who helped me with my training, offered support on course, and even the two angels who walked by my side for the last few miles before leaving me to cover the last .2 on my own, all made my finish possible. The crowd support buoyed me up for miles along the course. Volunteers who worked the race and the aid stations waited for me and offered assistance for me if and when I needed it. My family and friends — Aunt Carol, Peter, Dallas, Michael, Alyssa, Joe, Lucy, Ethan, Ben, and special mentions to Jim, Robyn, Becky, and Emily for walking literally miles with me, being my course support, catering to my needs, whims, and demands — all played a HUGE role in my accomplishment. I literally would not have finished that marathon without the help of each of those people I just mentioned. And here’s the epiphany: THEIR HELP DOES NOT DIMINISH MY SUCCESS OR MY ACCOMPLISHMENT ONE BIT! I still get to tell the world I ran a marathon. I still get to sport that dorky 26.2 magnet on the back of my car. There is no asterisk next to the word “finisher”. Instead of being so obtuse as to think that marathon was all about me, I am fully aware of all the hands that carried my, all the shoulders I leaned on, all the arms wrapped around me from the moment I started thinking about running a marathon to the moment I crossed that finish line.
I challenge everyone to think about the accomplishments and successes you’ve had in your life. And then think long and hard about how you did that. Can you say with a clear conscience that it was ALL YOU? I’m betting not. Instead of getting defensive, try a little gratitude. Honor the role the people in your life — both known and strangers — play in getting you to the literal or figurative finish lines in your life.
Gratitude is a funny thing. Once you experience it, you become acutely aware of it in so many other places in your life and it makes you see the world differently, in a warmer light. Gratitude begets kindness — kindness to others and to yourself. Start looking for opportunities to feel gratitude — you’ll be amazed at what it does!