One Bottle of Water, No Strings Attached

water bottle

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It’s easy to underestimate the impact that a simple, kind gesture can have on someone’s day.

All too often, we become so preoccupied with our own lives that we don’t stop to think about what might be going on in the hearts and minds of others.

  • Like the teenage checkout boy at the grocery store
  • The receptionist at the doctor’s office
  • Your neighbor, husband, mother, son, friend, colleague

What might happen if you took 2 minutes out of your day to do something to make someone else’s life just a bit better?

On Thursday, I set out at 6 pm for an interval run. It’s Florida in July, so it was 90°F, and we had a hard workout planned: 4.5 miles with .5 mile repeats over 5K pace.

My husband, Matt, and I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood. We like running intervals on what he calls our “Treetop Track.” (It’s actually named that on Strava.) It’s a .4 mile loop that almost entirely flat with one small bump of a hill, so it’s great for repeating efforts.

When we started running here, there were no homes. It was a peaceful spot that was secluded from the main neighborhood down below. But it didn’t last long.

Over the past few years, our track has become increasingly more busy as new homes are being built each week. A day doesn’t go by that there isn’t a construction crew excavating dirt, putting up drywall, or painting siding.

The crews rotate in and out. Sometimes you see familiar faces, but more often than not we’re running by a pack of strangers who are only vaguely interested in what a pair of Spandex-clad lunatics are doing sprinting around in circles.

(Honestly, I’m fairly certain most of them think we’ve completely lost our minds.)

I’ll preface the story that follows by saying this. As a woman who’s lived in this body for the past 39 years, I’m aware of the things that female runners have to deal with. Whether you’re exercising indoors or outdoors, just being a woman brings with it a certain set of challenges and obstacles.

There are horrific, unimaginable things that have happened, and continue to happen, to female runners. We do need to hear about those events in order to be well-informed, better prepared, enact change, and memorialize those who aren’t with us anymore simply because they wanted to go for a run.

But, this isn’t one of those stories.

This is a story about the good that’s still in the world.

On this particular evening, I was halfway through my intervals when Matt said he was heading back down to the house. (He’s a faster runner than me, so he gets done a bit quicker.) He gave me a kiss and jogged down the hill leaving me to finish my last two efforts.

It was 6:30 pm, so by this time there was only one crew left working- a pair of 20-something guys doing construction on a garage.

By my third repeat, I’d had about enough of the mind-melting heat, so I stopped to catch my breath in the shade of a nearby tree. One of the guys kept glancing over at me, not suspiciously, just likely wondering what on earth I was doing.

On my next lap around, I stopped in the shade again. This time, he walked over from the house with his hand outstretched. He was holding a plastic bottle of water.

Here I am, a completely soaked, drowned rat (and yes wearing a sports bra and running shorts because it’s 15,000 degrees outside) and he said just two sentences.

“Do you want some water? I’m sorry it isn’t cold.”

Then, he turned around and walked away. That was it.

No whistle. No wink. No cat-call.

No ogling eyes. No pathetic advance. No stupid remark.

No demeaning nickname. No weird look. No eye-rolling commentary.

He was just being nice. Period.

I’m not a big fan of stereotypes. Expecting that all people of a certain profession or gender are going to act in the same way is unfair and almost always grossly inaccurate.

Alas, these stereotypes persist in almost every facet of our daily lives. Just like not all doctors have bad bedside manner, not all journalists report biased coverage, and not all salesmen are sleazy, not all construction workers disrespect women.

Got a bit off topic there for a second, but I feel it’s an important distinction to make when thinking about how we treat other people as based upon preconceived notions.

So once I dumped half of the water on my head and drank the rest, I was ready for my last interval. As I rounded the turn to head home, construction guy #2 was walking back to his car, and he did make a hand gesture…

He gave me two thumbs up.

It was a simple, silent recognition. Of support, solidarity, or acknowledgment of my efforts, I’m not sure. But I do know that it wasn’t necessary, and yet he did it anyways.

These days, it seems like two thirds of the people I come into contact with are disappointing, whether it’s the way they act, the things they say, or how they treat other people. But it’s important to remember that the one third is still out there.

Good people do exist.

The mothers of these two guys would probably be proud to know that their sons are part of that one third.

I try to be part of that one third. Do you?

It doesn’t take much.

Last weekend, we went to a local brunch spot and it was packed. A poor waiter had five tables sat in his section at the same time. It took over an hour to get our food, and the waiter spent most of that time rushing around apologizing to everyone.

Before we left, Matt said, “Hey man. No worries. You’re doing the best you can. Hang in there.” The guy was floored and gave us an exhausted smile.

That’s all it takes to completely change someone’s day, and who knows, maybe even their life.

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