I love how social media offers the opportunity to connect with others, but the vitriolic nature of social media during the recent election disheartened me. I believe in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self – even if that person has different beliefs, different skin tone, or different gender.
I also believe that love, goodness, and compassion has the power to change the world for the better. Acts of kindness are like bricks – one may seem insignificant, but they accumulate to build something great. So, as an antidote to all the hate we’ve seen spread on social media and other forms of media and conversation over the past several months, here are a few simple ways that you can spread kindness in your running.
1. Smile and wave at other runners, walkers, and cyclists.
Greeting those you encounter on your run is simple yet powerful. You look them in the eye, acknowledge that they, just like you, are a human being, and exchange a smile, wave, or nod to affirm that. I think we can so easily get wrapped up in our own little world that we don’t always connect with others, even in this smallest of ways – but those connections are powerful, though they are brief.
You never know what type of day someone is having, so don’t become upset if they do not smile back. For all you know, your kindness may have lifted their spirits and bettered their day. I find also that greeting others makes me feel better if I’m having a down day.
2. Thank race volunteers and spectators.
The people handing out water at the aid stations, placing the medal on your neck, and cheering you on during a race all took time out of their day to be supportive – so take the time to be supportive back.
3. Don’t sacrifice being a good person for being a good runner.
If you are training so hard that you are irritable and irascible or if running becomes a priority over family, career, and friends, you may want to reassess your priorities. You CAN train to achieve your goals and still be a good person/loving family member/functioning person of society. This doesn’t happen to most runners, but there are some who let their priorities shift out of order – don’t be that person.
Even during an intense training cycle for a big goal race, take the time to just be a normal person and build community with others. Go out for drinks with friends, have a date night with your spouse, or hike that mountain with your family.
4. Pick up litter on your route.
I see gel packets, food wrappers, and other random pieces of waste on many of the routes I run. I’m a bit of an environmentalist, so when I can I pick up the litter and deposit it in the nearest trash can (which sadly, sometimes isn’t that far away).
We all share a common home – this good earth – so let’s take care of it together. Especially on an easy run when your pace doesn’t matter, stopping for a couple of seconds to make the world nicer is worth the time and effort.
Likewise, please properly dispose of any waste you accumulate on a run. Sticky gels will wash out of short pockets (trust me).
Of course, don’t pick up dangerous, sharp, or gross objects that should be removed with precaution and safety gloves. Use common sense.
5. Encourage others.
There’s enough tearing people down online. Instead, use social media for good and raise others up with supportive words and kindness. Encourage fellow runners during a race or group training run.
In short: go the extra mile in treating others with kindness. Even if you’re having an awful race or a crummy day, look beyond yourself and treat others as you wish to be treated.
“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.” – Dorothy Day, journalist & social activist.
What else would you add to this list?
How are you going to spread kindness today?