Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cheering For People In The Race

If you have ever watched the Ironman Triathlon you know it is truly inspirational; a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race and, to top it off, a 26.2 mile run. The pro’s can do it in a little over 8 hours; the rest of the field has to complete it in 17 hours.

The stories of those who compete are emotionally moving. Cancer survivors, amputees, seniors in their ‘70’s and everyday people who just want to compete, all take up the challenge of a grueling physical and mental test.

While I am stirred by the athlete’s competition, there is another component of the Ironman competition that is also inspirational – those that line the road cheering the competitors on. As the 17,000 participants of the Ironman pass by, it's the cheering crowd who pass out water, clap, and say "whoohoo - yeah, you're doing good, keep going." Even at mid-night and the last person is on the track, there will be someone out there cheering them on.

It’s hard to underestimate cheerleaders (not the pom-pom type on the sidelines of a football game, but those who cheer for those in the game). Anyone who plays sports knows the difference on how one plays the game when the stands are full of yelling fans versus the low feeling of playing a game with no one there to watch. Any team will tell you they would rather play games at home than in someone else’s stadium. Screaming fans in the stands translates into “home field advantage.”

Cheerleading touches every aspect of life. My family is made up of cheerleaders. Whenever someone does something, usually there’s an “Atta boy,” attached to it. It’s not uncommon in our family to give high 5’s to a seven year old who does a good job in a coloring book, a thirteen year old squeaking out notes learning to play the trumpet, or the sixteen year old who aced her calculus exam. But what’s truly amazing to me is how the spirit of cheerleading is prevalent among even the adults, my daughters and son-in-laws. The “way-to-go” and “that’s awesome” are simple phrases that affirm each other and encourage them to keep going in the race of life.

But not all people know how to encourage one another. If they do, it's usually a backhanded comment. Here is what you won’t hear from cheerleaders as they line the highway of an Ironman competition.

Pickup the pace, fat boy, you’re way behind.

I did this race last year and my time was at least an hour ahead of yours.

Who do you think you are to enter this race? You’re no athlete.

Yeah, you’re doing good, but you’ve got a tailwind to help you.

If I had a good bike like yours I’d be racing too.

Sadly, there are too many people along the roadside of life who just can’t cheer for anyone because of jealousy and feelings of insecurity.

The purpose of the blogsite is for missionaries and the issues missionaries face. You’re in the race and I hope you have some good people on the sidelines cheering you on. We need it to continue to run this marathon of service around the world. But the greater question is this: Are you a cheerleader to your family, to your colleagues and people who you interact with on a daily basis? While your race is important, don’t forget to cheer someone else as they pass by.

PS - After writing this blog I received in an email from Colorado:

Dear Dr. Lewis,

I just finished your book (The Journey of a Post Modern Missionary) and I wanted to thank you for the valuable information. I have had many cross-cultural classes in college but, of course, none reflected missions as they were secular school. It made a lot of sense. Thank you.

A cheerleader for the race, someone I’ve never met.