Last week I began a new workout plan... and let me tell you, it's incredible! On any given week night at 6pm you can find me, an ex-marine, and 200+ Lawrencians stretching, jack-jumping (it's ok, I made it up), lunging, and running until our legs won't run us anymore. Correction: running until MY legs won't run anymore. It's called Dog Days, and it's a free workout program for anyone in Lawrence to meet in a big grassy area on campus at 6am and 6pm 4 days a week for a good sweat and even more encouragement. Apparently it's been going on for years but I just found out about it all from a coworker last week and I've been sucked into it ever since. If I go 22 more times this summer I even get a Dog Days t-shirt :)
But there's a bigger point to this all... and as long-winded as I usually am, I'll get there eventually. Lately I've been feeling sluggish in too many ways. My motivation was dwindling, my workouts were boring (and few and far between), my eating habits were far from healthy, and the busy-ness of work was sucking my energy to do anything fun after I left the office each day. Life wasn't miserable or even hard, it just didn't have that extra spark that usually gets me through my days.
Moving to a new place is scary. There will always be struggles, long days, good days, and friends to miss, whether you're 45 minutes, 4 hours, or 7 time zones away. As much as I still miss my friends when I'm in Kansas, I've slowly adapted into an attitude of appreciation; for the friends I have here and the others who are near and dear to my heart but living all around the world. But what I'm starting to miss more is the community, a place to belong. I miss walking down the sidewalk and seeing someone I really know, or even just more than one familiar face. As fun and adventurous as life can be in a new place, it's hard not knowing a lot of people. But every time I feel this way I'm reminded to pray for you, for your neighbors, for the strangers that surround you daily, and for your familiar faces. I pray that you're encouraged most on the days when it's needed most.
You see, the other day when I started my first Dog Days workout, I was greeted with more smiles than I could've ever expected. High school girls were meeting up with friends after school, middle-aged women were pushing strollers on their way to meet up with their friends, and the surprisingly large 60+ crowd was already stretching in the grass. The woman at the check-in table smiled at me, even looked me in the eyes. Then later one of the white-haired guys ran past me uphill (talk about motivation!) and on his way by gave an encouraging "good job!" to the group of runners around him. But my favorite part is at the very end of the run, after the hills and stairs and laps and turns, when I finally get back to the end of the course. All the runners who've already finished crowd around the sidewalk and wait for the rest of the runners, clapping and cheering us on as we get to the nonexistent finish line. One woman in particular gave me a pat on the back as I slowed down and we walked toward the parking lot together. I have no idea who she is or what she does, but she smiled at me. Congratulated me on finishing one of the "tough runs" and joked about the old guy that passed her, too.
I still don't know who she is and I haven't been able to pick her out of the crowd since, but she gave me something that day that I'll never forget - a little extra hope. Now every time I go back, I think of her and the women pushing strollers and the old guys who will soon pass me on the running trail, and I can't help but feel so encouraged by their presence. I wonder how many people might feel the same way after bumping into you today...