Hey, keep it strong

Every once in a while, some simple words of encouragement can truly boost a person’s spirits.

Even if they come from a complete stranger.

I was running after work one day last week, and it was HOT. More than once during the run, I questioned why I thought this was a good idea, and more than once, I wanted to stop and walk (or dodge into the nearest establishment and pour water all over myself). But, for whatever reason, I kept running. I’m never going to get where I want to be and be able to start racing competitively again if I start giving up because of challenges.

It turns out that I needed that run a lot more than I thought.

I was somewhat near the end of my run, and it wasn’t getting any easier. I was on a pretty busy street at this point, and I was approaching a bus stop where a man was sitting with a bag that may or may not have contained all of his worldly possessions. As I ran by him, he startled me a bit when he spoke to me.

“Hey, keep it strong.”

I don’t know if he knew this, but in that exact moment in my life, I needed those four simple words. As I said, “Thank you so much!” and continued on my way (his inspiration even made me pick up my pace a little bit), I realized that I didn’t only need those words to help me while I was running—I needed them to help me in my life.

We tried to keep it strong when we ran up this hill. (P.S. This pic doesn’t do the steepness of the hill justice.)

It’s easy to get discouraged when things aren’t going your way or when you simply feel powerless in certain situations. Giving up hope and throwing in the towel seems like the only option. I know I sometimes feel that way, and it’s been more prevalent lately in a few areas. As I ran, I let my circumstances run through my mind, and I kept replaying that man’s words in my head: Hey, keep it strong. And I prayed for him and thanked God for him—I truly believe He sends the right people to us when we need them the most.

I know that life isn’t always going to pan out the way we hoped it would, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still have hope. I know that I might not meet the guy of my dreams while walking through a park, and he accidentally hits me in the head with a frisbee and then comes over to apologize, and sparks fly—but I’m probably still going to hope that it will be something like that.

There are going to be many times when it’s easier to give up or to settle for what you know isn’t right for you. But those are the moments when it’s important to find even just an inkling of strength to help to keep you going to do what you know you need to do.

I believe in hopes. I believe in dreams. I believe in continuing to believe in those hopes and dreams, even when you have so many odds against you or people trying to tell you what would be better for you to hope and dream. We’re all so different, and we’re going to have different hopes and dreams and standards and beliefs and values and strengths and passions—and that’s not a bad thing.

There’s a line in the movie Without Limits (about the life of Steve Prefontaine) when Pre is trying to win Mary’s heart, and Mary asks Pre, “Are you always so positive about everything?” and he replies, “Consider the alternative.” I think it’s a really great mindset to have—one that tries to be hopeful for things for which others are not so hopeful. The alternative isn’t quite keeping it strong.

You never know when your words can truly encourage a person or when someone else’s can do the same for you. I’m grateful for the man at the bus stop. He didn’t have to say a word to me—he could have simply kept to himself until his bus arrived. But, instead, he gave the gift of hope to a person he doesn’t even know. He made me remember that when you know in your heart that something is right, it’s important to keep that hope alive with all of the gusto you can muster.

Because when you lose hope, you can certainly lose a lot more along with it.

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