My race with Olivia was an emotional day. The race director of the Great Pumpkin Classic knew that I was planning to be there that day and knew of my efforts to run for those we lost in Sandy Hook. So, with that in mind, he kindly made an announcement at the start of the race that I was there and explained to people what my effort was. People starting clapping and whistling and it was very overwhelming. People near me began to approach, pat me on the back, hug me and congratulate me on my efforts. My son was with me that day, "running" along my side in the jogging stroller. Just before the race began, he asked me, "Momma, why is everyone hugging you?" And luckily, I didn't have to answer because the horn went off and the race began and he was captivated by all the activity that had started up around him. I was thankful for the distraction, because I didn't trust my voice to hold steady after the show of support from perfect strangers.
Perfect strangers. That's a term that I have found the true meaning to in all of this. Throughout this project I have met the most amazing people. Selfless, giving past the point of reason, honorable, compassionate. They are perfect. In every sense of the word. I think that I could have easily gone through life bitter and sad and angry about what happened at Sandy Hook. I could have allowed it to take away a part of my typically positive outlook on life. Allowing the bad to take away your good is the scary part of fight back against tragedy. Allowing the bad to take that away would have redefined me as a person. Who I am as a mother to my son. As a wife. A daughter. A sister. But on days like Olivia's day, these Perfect Strangers forced me to remember that we should always do what we can to lift each other up. To support each other when there is good to be done. That the good people in this world will always out weigh the bad. And those good people will reveal themselves to you when you really need it. They will find a way to pull you back and remind you why the good is worth fighting for.
Can I ask a favor please? If you are doing random acts of kindness this month, or any month, make one of those acts the simple task of saying something uplifting and unexpected to a complete stranger. A word of encouragement. A small amount of praise. Something to let a Perfect Stranger know that you noticed them and that they matter. Because on Olivia's race day, there were people that gave that to me. And I will forever associate Perfect Strangers with Olivia and the impact that kind words can have when they come from someone you have never met before.
Here is Olivia. My original perfect stranger and my 21st angel.