Have you ever set a big goal for yourself, spent a long time preparing for it, and then finally had the joy of achieving that goal?  Perhaps it was a goal of going to back to school, making a move to a new home, retiring, going on a special trip, changing careers, getting in shape, or running your first 10K race or first marathon.  Six years ago I set a goal of riding my bike from my home in Milwaukee, WI to Fish Creek, a quaint little town in Door County, the “thumb” of WI, where my wife and I spend two weeks each year.

After years of wanting to make this ride, I determined earlier this summer that this would be the year I would attempt it.  I started training, putting in lots of extra miles on my bike.  I studied maps and plotted my route along remote country roads so as to avoid as much traffic as possible.   I spent extra time at the bike shop picking up some last minute tips from experienced riders who had done similar kinds of rides and I am happy to report that I completed my ride and accomplished my six year goal this past week.

There are many memorable experiences I could lift up from my fourteen hour ride, but the one that I want to reflect on here is the overwhelming and completely unexpected encouragement I received from perfect strangers  along the way.

I made frequent stops for food and drink in many small towns on my route, and in every town I met people who asked me where I was headed.  Apparently, I was not the first biker to make this journey as  the locals seemed to be used to meeting bikers who were passing through.  Several times when stopped on the side of the rural roads  to rest and take a drink, strangers in cars, and even a farmer on a tractor  stopped and asked me if everything was alright.  One passerby even offered me a bottle of water he had in his car.  The support of the strangers I met along the way, along with the support of my wife and friends, is what gave me the inspiration to complete my goal.

All of this reminded me once again of the power and blessing we can be to one another by offering the simple act of encouragement.  It reminded me that when any of us has an important goal we are seeking to attain, or when we have an important journey that we need to make, whether it be a literal journey or a metaphorical journey, we need to let others know about our dreams and to surround ourselves with others who can encourage us.

My experience this week served as a reminder to me to offer words and acts of encouragement to those in my life, those I know are going through a challenging time or are seeking to meet a new challenge in their lives.  It reminded me that giving encouragement can truly help people accomplish things they are not sure they can do on their own.

Who do you know right now that needs a little extra encouragement?   What might you do to cheer on someone who needs support right now?  My experience this week not only with family and friends, but with total strangers opened my eyes. It has inspired me to look around and see who needs a little extra encouragement. Going forward I will not only be looking at my friends and family and wondering what support they need, but I will also look at the mother struggling with her toddler in the grocery store, the person who needs a hand crossing a busy street, and others, both known or unknown to me, who happen to cross my path and could benefit from a little extra support. And whenever I see a biker stopped along the side of a country road, I will most certainly stop to offer him or her a little encouragement and if I have one, a cold bottle of water.

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