My daughter Jordan’s love for running began when she was in about second grade. She would lace up her little shoes and run around the block — twice.
At one point she convinced me to drive her to Scheels, a sporting goods store, to buy a special water container that she could wear on her back for her “longer” runs.
Pretty much everyone in our north Fargo neighborhood recognized the Little Runner Girl by face, if not by name. They would wave and yell out “Great job!” as she passed by their houses.
A woman in central Wisconsin who is sharing her love of running with her own daughter wrote to me about the kindness she saw from her community during her daughter’s first big race.
“My daughter, Alaina, decided to run her first 5K on the Fourth of July. We practiced the day before by running up and down the driveway.
"She knew which shoes, socks and shirt she was going to wear and would practice ‘pumping her arms.’ Leading up to the race day, she told everyone she knew to watch her. Now that she just turned 4 and was a big girl, she wanted to show everyone how super fast she is.
"The day of the run came. Anticipating her quick burnout, we brought the jogging stroller along. We started running and Alaina was pumping her arms hard, excited about all the adrenaline and all the people she was running with. She was by far the youngest, shortest and smallest runner. Her bib number covered her entire back.
"I watched my little girl’s pride about being able to run with everyone else. She had no idea how long 3.1 miles was and didn’t feel insecure when these super-athletic, gazelle-looking young men flew past her.
"This is when I saw the kindness. My momma heart was right there with Alaina — excited for her, proud of her, and knowing she was going to need a nap before the parade. But then we would run past someone standing alongside the route and they would see this small child trying her hardest. They would hoot and holler and cheer for her extra loud. They were so proud of her, too!
"Alaina heard this and ran even faster, pumping her arms even more. It was a beautiful thing to witness. She even brought a smile to the faces of the teenagers who probably wanted to sleep in that morning instead of helping with the race.
"Since Alaina refused to get in the stroller, we decided to shorten our race and crossed the finish line at the 1-mile mark. Maybe next year she will do the full 5K. I know she will be talking about it until then!”
We all have the power to encourage someone else. A smile, a high-five and a compliment go a long way for a Little Runner Girl — and everyone else who could use a message of motivation to finish their own race well.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men's basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.