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I recently had the opportunity to run safety for an open water swim race on my local river. The steps were covered with a field of swimmers with numbers written on their arms in wax pen. As they hit the water one gentleman was noticeably slower than the rest of the field. His family was walking the river bank beside him as he made his way downstream and encouraging him along the way. During the race a bathing suit malfunction forced him to the bank to readjust and he told me that he was in the process of getting healthy and had recently lost 157 lbs. That explained the baggy swimsuit! He didn’t let it bother him and was soon back in the water and heading toward the finish line. As we neared the end of the line all the other swimmers had gone around the bend and were no longer visible. I assumed they had completed the race and were moving back toward their vehicles. When we rounded the bend, almost every swimmer in the field was waiting at the finish line and erupted in cheers and encouragement! The river echoed with “great job”, “almost there” and “keep going”! The gentleman pushed through the last stretch to the crowd waiting at the bank and as they helped him up the bank another cheer blasted through the air.

It was awesome to witness how others can use their power to uplift someone instead of bring them down and it made me wonder how many times I missed an opportunity to raise someone up. We, as kayakers, are a part of one of the fastest growing outdoor interests of all time. There are new paddlers joining our ranks daily and some of them have no clue how to get started or which direction to head. We have a choice to help and encourage them along the way and I hope we use that to our advantage. It doesn’t take long to assist with gear wisdom, paddle strokes or techniques and especially safety.
I know in my life the encouragement of others can often mean the difference between success and a difficult struggle. That goes for everything from weight loss to sports or any challenge I have ever attempted. The bible compares the tongue to a rudder on a ship; it is small but it can change the direction to wherever the captain wants; good or bad. We have the choice to use our tongues to direct those who desire to learn from us, let’s make sure we use them to direct people to the adventure of a lifetime. The gift of kayaking is pretty darn awesome and it is worth sharing with anyone who has the want; be an encourager today!