Here’s an experiment to try: take your kids to the next nearby road race you can get to, just to watch and cheer for the runners. Make posters with clever sayings on them if you want. Then have the kids stand by the side of the road with their hand out, ready to give high fives to any and all takers.
It’ll make their day, and your day too. I almost guarantee it.
Saturday morning was the Brooklyn Half Marathon. We had several friends running the race, and it’s only a mile and a half from our apartment, so first thing in the morning we packed up the kids and went to cheer on the runners.
We found a spot on what we like to call “Devastation Pass” in Prospect Park a pretty big hill that hits at about the 5-mile mark of the race. We thought that was where we could do the most good. We stood there for a long time, looking for our friends, telling runners they were looking good, that they were almost to the top, that they could do it . . . but to be honest, it felt a little hollow. We weren’t really into it, and it seemed like the runners could have cared less about whether we were there or not. (Having run several races in my life, I know that’s not true. Being cheered on is awesome. But that’s how it felt at the time.)
Then my 3-year-old wanted to get a little closer to the action and we put him next to the road with his arm out to give high fives. And very suddenly it was a different race and we were different cheerers. I crouched down next to my son to hold his arm in place because he hadn’t quite caught on yet to what was going on and I watched again and again as tired, dead-eyed runners saw my little boy, brightened up, smiled, and ran out of their way to give him five.
The masses of strangers running by became friends. We looked people in the eye when we told them they could do it, that they were almost to the top of the hill, that they were looking good and running strong. We were having a lot more fun, but we could also feel and see that we were making a difference to those runners who, just moments before, were staring off into the distance waiting for the hill to end. They were awake again and present. Maybe even enjoying themselves. And we felt useful. Our presence did matter.
So test it out and prove me wrong. Tell me that a high five on the side of the road doesn’t bring a smile to your face and some joy to your soul.