As I ran on a hot and humid afternoon wiping the sweat off my face with my perspiration cloth, I recalled receiving my first cloth. It was a gift of sorts. During my first (and only) marathon, I remember people handing items out on the side of the road: orange slices, Gatorade, water, candy. I’d receive some, others I’d pass on. I don’t recall which mile it was but most likely in the second half, a person held out white wash cloths. People took them, so I took one that was handed to me. I asked another runner what this was for and he responded that it was a sweat rag. Perfect! I didn’t even know that was a thing or how badly I needed one, but it was immediately transforming. I didn’t have to wipe my face with my shirt any longer and it gave me something to hold in my clenched fist. Twenty years later, I still run with a sweat rag. Can’t run without one.

Jill running with a sweat rag in her clenched fist.

Most of that marathon is a blur for me but the kindness of a stranger handing out cloths is memorable. Other acts of kindness flooded my mind as I ran on this warm day. I recalled a friend who ran with me on my long training runs on occasion. She wasn’t training for a race, but she would join me for a thirteen or fourteen-mile run to ease my pain. So amazing! On longer runs she would meet me half way and finish the run with me which was a huge help as this was before portable music and my mind was mush towards the end.

I recall friends with three young kids who drove all the way into the city and stood on a street corner cheering for me as I trotted by for a fleeting moment. Meant the world to me. My husband watched our three young kids each weekend on my long runs. He had T-shirts made for the kids to wear on race day that read TEAM JILL! So awesome.

I’m thankful for the kindness of a sitter who watched our kids on a Saturday, at the last minute, when my husband fell sick, and I’d signed up for a half-marathon as a training run. A doctor I worked with told me about that race. He instructed me on what running gear I needed, how to train and worked up a schedule for me. I truly was a novice and would never have finished without his expertise.

I remember a student I worked with who asked if I had running socks. No, I did not. I ran in any old socks. She lived by a Thorlo outlet and gifted me with my first pair of running socks! I’ve run in running socks ever since!

Oh, the overwhelming kindness of others that flooded my soul! Each act was just a small act, but without each of them, I would not have succeeded in my solitary marathon twenty years ago. I would not have been able to train for that marathon, run the half-marathon, have the correct running gear, the socks, the training schedule and support. I would not have had the sweat cloth, the emotional support or encouragement I needed through the race. Each act of kindness was life-changing for me in its own way.

Kindness is scriptural, it’s a fruit of the spirit, it’s what the Lord knows each of us need. It builds His Kingdom here on earth. Why hold back? I vowed on this run to pay it forward. Why ever hold kindness back? Even small acts can contribute to larger accomplishments. Encouraging words, small tokens, wisdom shared. It all counts. We never know what another person is experiencing.

Whenever God places a person with needs before me, I want to reach out and help as I can. I don’t want to waffle back and forth in my mind wondering if I should reach out, if it will appear weird, if they actually need my assistance. I just need to act. I’m praying the Lord will open my eyes, my ears, my heart to the needs of those around me and prompt me to act, even if it is such a small act as handing out a sweat rag.

How about you? Are you with me? What acts of kindness stand out in your mind?

Colossians 3:12 New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.