A few months ago, as I got the kids ready for bed, we stepped out onto the balcony of my parent’s beach condo to read bedtime stories. We gazed out towards the sea and saw participants of the Challenge Atlantic City full triathlon still making their way down the boardwalk. Some were happily trotting along while others were clearly struggling toward thd end of this massive accomplishment. I began clapping and cheering, “You got this!” breaking the serenity of the Sunday evening hush of waves.

Some racers looked around, confused as to where my voice was emanating from, while others pumped their arms up, perhaps in gratitude, cheering for themselves and their mysterious fans. Some continued trudging along, while others added some bounce and speed to their steps.

The kids became excited and joined in, questioning each passer-by, “Is that a racer, Momma? That one? Go! Go! Go! You can do it! Finish strong! Finish proud! You totally got this! You’re awesome! Go! Go! Go!”

It didn’t take long for me to get choked up, a mix of parental pride at the kid’s overt enthusiasm and sincerely decent spirit towards others, and knowing exactly the point in this journey that each runner felt, be it “I can do this!” or “I’m ready to throw the towel in.” “I need help.” “Almost there!” “I’m done.” “I think I can.” and even, “No. I can’t.”

The children were concerned about my tears so I explained that I am both very proud of them for showing support and cheering others on when they need it most, and that I know how those athletes feel at this point of their race because I am at that same point. I have been there for what has both seemingly and actually has been years. In fact, I think we’ve all been THERE, regardless of whatever journey you’re “racing” in…

An old friend and camp counselor used to share a story about a girl with an invisible IALAC sign. I Am Lovable And Capable. The story goes that the girl’s sign tears throughout the day as some things go wrong or she is insulted. Some tears are barely visible, while others rip the sign in half or even shred it to near pulp. Yet the sign is said to regenerate each night so the girl can begin each day refreshed and ready to take on life.

In school, as part of an anti-bullying campaign, Lady J and Bud are learning about bucket fillers and bucket dippers. The basic idea is that we each carry imaginary buckets. You can choose to fill other’s buckets through compliments, acts of kindness, and inclusion and in doing so, your own bucket fills. Or you can dip someone’s bucket with insults, physical harm, or exclusion, which will also dip yours.

Well, something that my Facebook feed won’t tell you, is that my IALAC sign is shredded and has a really hard time regenerating to full strength overnight but it’s still hanging “pinky strong”, and although my bucket feels half empty many days, other days it feels half full and it often fills and flows over the brim.

So I think I’ll be ok. This part of my journey is just really, really hard.

I’m at the part of the race when you think, hope, and pray that the finish line is nearing, while most onlookers have packed it in and the cheers have almost become silent. The day is nearing an end and they have their own lives to live. This is the part when Fight Song, Carry On, Try, Stronger, Defying Gravity, Final Countdown, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Mahna Mahna,  and Paul Revere {because Muppets and Beastie Boys…} are on constant repeat on my internal play list and I dig deep to fill my own bucket and tape the shredded pieces of my sign back together.

And through the taped up tears in my sign and holes in my bucket, I still do my best to not only treat others as I want to be treated, but to instill that practice into my children because it’s that important and that simple.

So we stood there, the children and I, cheering the racers on from the balcony as the sun began its descent, trying to help others strengthen their IALAC signs and hoping to fill their buckets, knowing that mine will be just fine…

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