On a recent Saturday, our running team was at the local park doing a hill workout … in the rain. You wouldn’t think in such a location and under those circumstances, there would be any life lessons to learn, but there was.

Normally we do learn the lesson that hard work has a pay-off. Our various workouts are timed by Coach Wayne and we use the stopwatch to gauge our progress. This session was no different in that regard.

The weather now presented another obstacle all together. Besides fighting our inner demons of fatigue and wanting to quit, we now had the weather to contend with. It was cold AND rainy. We’d learned to deal with the cold by wearing multiple layers of clothing and gloves. The rain required a waterproof jacket or slicker during the two-mile warm up. But that had to be shed when it was time to rock and roll and coach had his stopwatch in hand.

I silently prayed, asking for a break from the rain and my wishes were granted with periodic sunshine peeking through the clouds and an off and on again subduing of the rain. (There’s a lesson in there about asking for what you want.)

But the biggest lesson I learned that day had to do with the observance of others, and I don’t mean my fellow running buddies or those participating in that weekend’s 5K race or even those out for a morning jog.

No. It had to do with two men I observed when we walked back down our 200-meter hill only to run up it again at full speed, for a total of 8 times! We were on about trip number 5, when I observed the first man crossing the road in front of us with a sleeping bag in one hand and a small duffle bag in the other. Behind him, back about 50 feet, was a second man walking a bike with belongings in the front basket and holding a sleeping bag.

It hit me. They were homeless. They were traveling in the park with their only belongings in tow because the rest of the world had now converged on their abode, necessitating they “move on.”

We were tired. We were wet. We wanted to quit but knew we couldn’t – the rest of the team wouldn’t let us. Our only bright light at the end of the tunnel was that we were more than halfway done, or on the down-hill side of the up-hill work out.

Observing these two men put things into perspective. We were complaining little babies compared to these guys. We knew once the workout was over, we’d enjoy a hot breakfast, a warm shower or bath, and a comfy bed to lay our heads down at night. They would not.

A lump formed in my throat. I tried not to cry, lest the team see me and wonder what was wrong.

What was wrong is that I could see, right before my eyes, how incredibly lucky I was to be living my life versus the one they were currently living. I was thankful and grateful beyond measure.

Once I had this revelation, the remaining runs up the hill, even in the rain and the post-workout cooldown were easily completed, for there is always something to be thankful for.

It bears repeating: There is always something to be grateful for. Just look around with open eyes and an open heart.

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