If you follow my Facebook page, you know that my 9-year old ran her first 5K road race on Sunday (maybe you’re even sick of hearing about it). She trained for it, increased her mileage bit by bit and then pushed through the race like a champ. It wasn’t easy for her and to add more stress – she went public about running the race before she was even sure she could actually do it, so she knew there were quite a few pairs of eyes on her that day. When she asked me what the race was for I told her that the participation fee goes to benefit the Waltham, MA public schools. LeAnne, without so much as a second thought, said: “Well, I want to raise money for my school too” (she attends a private school that depends on donations and fund-raising for survival). And that is how her GoFundMe campaign began, just one week before the race.
To be perfectly honest, I had mixed feelings about publicly sharing my daughter’s journey to a 5K. As a parent, I wanted to protect her privacy. I also didn’t want to publicize her disappointment if the race didn’t go as well as we had hoped. But on the other hand, there is so much for her to learn by putting herself and her story out there that I felt I had to share it. So, was it worth sharing? And in the end, did it even matter? Based on the feedback I received it certainly mattered, as the experience had an amazing ripple effect on many people around her and she learned some real life lessons along the way.
As a parent, I often tell my children that with any given activity there will always be somebody that is better than they are and somebody that isn’t as good as they are. And, that the route to success, as I see it, is in what I think of as the “reach up/reach down” approach.
What I mean by that is that it’s important to look up at the people who are better than you or those who have already achieved what you are striving for and, rather than be intimidated by them or discouraged, reach your hand out and let them pull you up. Ask for their help if you need it. People in general want to help and share their experiences but you have to ask. It’s part of your fight to reach your goal. But if you ask others for help be willing to help someone else, pay it forward. Reach down and help them up – do for them what somebody else did for you. LeAnne got to experience that when classmates asked how she did it.
Nobody accomplishes anything on their own; it takes a village. That village came through for LeAnne in ways that make me both proud and grateful. She received encouragement from family, friends and complete strangers who just wanted to help for the sake of helping. Whether it was in the form of kind words, friends who came out on race day to cheer her on, spectators calling out to her from the side of the road, or people who generously donated to her cause, everyone helped my daughter with her achievement.
These are all things I don’t take for granted. I believe this is how we teach our children that they can achieve things in life. That if they work hard and rally others around them they can not only succeed but also inspire others along the way. You can’t teach your child that on your own, you need the village.
There will always be those who will think that what you do isn’t a big deal, and maybe to them it isn’t. That’s fine. But you never know how sharing your story, your goal, your dream with others will impact somebody else. A friend of mine, Yuval Abramovitz, is on a life mission to encourage people to shout their dreams with the belief that others will help them achieve them. I agree with that. I also know what bringing fitness into your life can do for your mood, your confidence, your lifestyle. So if my daughter inspired one person to get off the couch and into some gym clothes – it was worth it.
I’ve received many emails, messages and phone calls from parents telling me their own personal stories and how watching LeAnne affected their family. Some decided to start running as a family, others found different activities that will get them all active together. Some adults wrote to tell me that if my 9 year old can do it – they can too and asked where to start. Other parents wrote that their children decided to try and run a race because “if she can – so can we!” And that ladies and gentlemen, is what this is all about!
So share your experiences! Enthusiasm and good attitudes are contagious. Create a network of people around you that will help you cross the finish line, literally or figuratively.
And speaking of crossing the finish line….