The Power of a Helping Hand

I’d like to share a personal story with you from an experience I had this past weekend— but first a little context.
I‘ve written many times about the power that comes from the moment when another person offers you a hand of support after they’ve noticed you struggling.
It’s vital that a workplace culture contains this atmosphere of camaraderie and encouragement.
And although the story I’m going to share did not happen at a place of work, it proves just how important a genuine act of benevolence can be.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to run the Vancouver Sun Run with my two sons, Matt and Alex.

Although I had not done a great deal of training for this day, I felt that my basic level of overall fitness would carry me through. After all, in my youth I had completed seven marathons and was regularly seen at the track doing interval training and sprint tests. I was a gazelle! Emphasis on the word was. But this time I also had 40,000 other runners around me to keep the adrenaline pumping.
The point was, I was just happy to be doing this with my kids although, as usual, the only time that we spent time together was when we were standing at the start of the run.
As soon as the starter’s horn blared, they were off, offering a wave behind them for their dad.
I followed, with the help of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance playing through my ear buds, and felt confident that everything was going to go well.
Fast forward to the 6km mark and I was still powering along.
As I ran north across the Burrard Street Bridge, I began to notice a runner in front of me paying a great deal of attention to the crowd along the side of the course.
Running along the edge, he began high-fiving the children standing with their parents— all of them! It soon became obvious that kids further down the course were now waiting to high-five him as he ran by. He obliged enthusiastically and the result was huge smiles on their little faces.
Fast (relative term this time) forward to almost the 7km mark and Phil is in trouble.
The sole of my right foot felt like it was going to spontaneously burst into flames and I decided to stop running and walk a bit.
Although the act of walking felt good for my right foot, it didn’t feel good for the runner in me who had wanted to finish in about an hour.  As I continued to weigh the pros and cons of picking up the pace, something quite extraordinary occurred.
I felt a tap on my left shoulder and looked over.
There was the runner who I had seen earlier high-fiving the kids.
He looked at me, with a huge and extremely genuine smile, and said, “You’re doing really great….keep it up! The finish is not far away…see you there!” He even turned around and waved me on toward him with an encouraging hand.
And that was just what I needed!
Without thinking about it, I started running again….forgetting about the instant pain in my right sole – and making up my mind that after I ran across the finish line, I would do my best to thank him personally.
I didn’t stop running again and in a slightly ironic twist, Queen’s We Are The Champions was playing through my ear buds as I emerged from the Cambie Street Bridge and headed to the finish line.

I did it. And in 1 hour 02 minutes!
I can’t help but chalk up my victory to the “kindness of a stranger”— someone who noticed me struggling, did something about it, and genuinely meant it.
(And yes, I did track him down at the finish area outside of BC Place Stadium and genuinely thanked him for doing what he did.)
I think this story clearly illustrates the fact that when this sort of gesture occurs, mighty things happen…whether it’s out on the course of the Vancouver Sun Run, or in your workplace.
Did you catch this story from the London Marathon a little while ago?
The difference that a simple act of kindness can make in a person’s day (world) can be huge— and don’t forget the domino effect it can have as well.
So my Call to Action for you today is to do the three things necessary to offer support in the most effective way:

  1. Pay attention to those around you, and
  2. If (when) you notice that someone needs a helping hand, go and offer it –
  3. Genuinely

High Five!


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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