I was just over a mile into the event when it happened. He passed me. I thought to myself, “My goodness, there’s no way he’s beating me! If I can just stay with him for the remainder of the run, I should be able to pass him as we approach the finish.”
That was the plan. That is not what happened.
The event was the South Mountain Challenge. A five-mile run up the road that leads to the top of South Mountain, an approximately 2700 foot high mountain in south Phoenix. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s not a mountain!” That aside, the person who passed me was a 76-year-old man named Larry. And he beat me to the top by 1.5 minutes. After soothing my ego, I had to introduce myself and take this picture with him. Oh, and for all you smart alecks, I’m the one on the left.
I had never met Larry before that day. I have not come across him since, nor do I believe I ever will. I spoke with him for, at most, two minutes. Just long enough to ask his age and to snap this picture. Beyond his age, I don’t know anything about him. I don’t know where he is from, what he did (or does) for a living, whether he is (or was) married, whether he has children, or how long he’s been running. But, I’ll never forget him.
You see, Larry inspired me that day. Honestly, he continues to inspire me. Whenever I don’t feel like going for a run, I think of Larry. Whenever my body is sore after a run, which occurs at a greater frequency these days, I think of Larry. But his inspiration extends beyond just running. Whenever I feel like throwing up my hands, regardless of the situation, I need only think of Larry.
That’s right. My two minute, chance encounter with Larry left a lasting impact. And it got me thinking. Almost daily, many of us have relatively brief encounters with people we have never before met, and may never meet again. We should make the most of every encounter, regardless of how insignificant each may seem at the moment. We never know the impact of a word we speak or of an action we take during such encounters. We may evoke admiration or contempt, we may encourage or discourage, we may inspire or dishearten.
It’s said that we have only one opportunity to make a first impression. But if that one opportunity is the only opportunity, then that first impression is the only impression. That impression could be lasting – for good or for bad. If you’re anything like me, you’d like that impression to be good.
Let’s make the most of our daily chance encounters. We never know the impact we may have.