Pay it forward. A small action can have a lasting effect.

Pay it forward. A small action can have a lasting effect.

Contributed by
Ashley Reed

I loved running in high school. Every afternoon when the school alarm went off, I would rush into the locker room to get changed. I didn’t mind the perpetual heat and sticky humidity of South Florida. During cross country season, my team would run from the school to the nearby beach boardwalk, sweating through our miles with the Atlantic Ocean stretching out on our east side.
Running became a spiritual experience for me – one where I could sort through my thoughts and burn through any troubling teenage angst.

When I was in my Junior Year of high school, my cross country coach introduced a new “volunteer coach.” Her name was Elaine, and she was an elementary school teacher who ran marathons and coached other runners. I immediately looked up to her as someone I wanted to be in the future – tan, fit, confident, and churning out races in the middle of having a career and family.

One day, I shared with Elaine my goal to run a half marathon – I was 17 years old, and didn’t know where to start. She showed excitement for my goal, and helped me pick a race. Once I signed up for the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon (after begging my parents to pay the registration fee as my Birthday present), Elaine put together a training plan that I could incorporate with my track pre-season schedule.

Having never run longer than 8 miles, I dreamed what it would be like to cross the finish line of a half marathon. After attending my first race expo, I almost burst from excitement; I had never known how big the running community was, and how many products were out there to clothe, comfort, and strengthen runners. As the only member of my family who pursued running, and having seen very few others pounding the sizzling sidewalks of my neighborhood, discovering a whole community of runners was like stumbling upon a new world.

Race day finally came, and I beat my goal to complete the race in 2 hours by crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 55 minutes. I was exhausted, but also felt incredibly accomplished. The next time I saw Elaine, she had brought me a gift basket with a 13.1 tumbler, running stickers, and a card congratulating me on my finish.

Elaine was one of the adults during my teenage years who cemented my love of running, and inspired me to check out the world of running beyond high school cross country and track meets. As of right now, I am currently signed up for my first ever marathon this fall. Elaine’s small action of taking an interest in my goal definitely has had a lasting effect in my life. So Elaine, if you are out there, THANK YOU!

Can you think of a time when someone made a small action or investment in your life that had a positive impact? Share in the comments below!

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The Prodigal Father. The Forgiving Son.

The Prodigal Father. The Forgiving Son.

Contributed by
Eduardo Morales

My heart was pumping. I started to get all warm inside. It was that feeling you get when you know the Holy Spirit is prompting you to respond at that very moment.

“Bold Steps, who in here needs to take a bold step?!” the pastor was challenging all of the men from the stage.

His voice was easily drowned out by the sound of my heartbeat. “Why did I need to do this now God? At this moment? In front of all these men? I am going look weak! Lord, I can just talk to my father when I’m at home, why do I need to do this here?!!!” That was the dialogue that was going through my head. By that time several men had already taken the stage to take of the challenge and take their bold steps.

Six years prior I was left awestruck, confused, hurt, scarred, broken. My dad walked out on my mom, brother and I. Fortunately, for me I was able to cope by going away to college. It was my form of escape.  I wasn’t at the house, I didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t know how deep this cut was for my family. I knew one thing though, I had lost all respect for my father. The hard-working, strict, “do whatever I can to help and provide for my family” man I once knew, I wanted nothing to do with. “Why Dad? Why are you coming here? Why do you want to be around?” I couldn’t really grasp much of it in the moment, but my response was reject and ignore and try my best to forget.

I knew I needed to take a bold step and forgive my father. I needed to choose to put my pain behind me, so that our relationship could be mended, healed, restored. I started walking towards the front, gently pushing past all the men that crowded near the stage. I didn’t want to be up there; but I needed to be.

“Is there anybody else that needs to take a bold step today?” that pastor said again.

I stood by the steps and finally walked up. “And what bold step are you taking today?” he said.

In a very shaky voice I said, “I need to share something with my father. I need to forgive him.”

Turning his gaze to the sea of men before us the pastor shouted, “where is he at, let’s bring him up on stage…”

He wasn’t even in the room. “Seriously!!! Now I really look like a fool,” I told God in my head. They literally sent a search crew to find him and I waited up on the stage until someone finally found him. “I knew I should’ve just waited until we got home,” I said to myself.

I got used to my dad not being around. I took shelter in my achievements, my dating relationship at the time, even to a small extent drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Although he chose to be absent for a time of my life, didn’t change the fact that he was still my father and I was his son. I didn’t want to continue journeying life trying to figure things out on my own. I wanted that relationship. I needed that relationship. Some seasons in life had been activated a bit prematurely. The king left the household, so the prince had to take over to a position he was unfamiliar with, a position that he was not yet equipped to handle.

“We found him!” someone shouted in the back. He came to the stage with a sense of urgency.

“Your son has something that he wants to share with you…” and with that the pastor handed me the microphone.

“Dad, I just want to tell you that I love you very much…”(my eyes started watering,) “…I asked you to come up here, because I need to take a bold step. I need to forgive you for everything that has happened in our past. I don’t want the enemy to hold you in a guilty position anymore. I choose today dad to put the last six years behind me.” At that point I was sobbing. My father grabbed me and we shared a moment, as we embraced in one of the biggest hugs I ever gave him, I felt freed, I felt released. In that moment, the string of hurt, betrayal, abandonment all melted away.  I felt the power of release and the freedom of forgiveness.

I had several men approach me and tell me how impactful that moment was for them. I felt like the Lord showed me that that moment wasn’t just for you, it was so all those men in that room could see what a real-life, sincere act of forgiveness looked like.

Our relationship has changed in such a positive and drastic way since. I believe that choosing to forgive can be a vulnerable and risky thing, but learning how to forgive and applying it to our relationships is an integral act. Forgiveness frees, unforgiveness entangles and hinders. We must learn to forgive, as he has forgiven us.