This is Allen. Although I am pretty sure he is called many other great things, this is the name he was born with. He sits on the bench of my favorite park looking out onto the lake with his face towards the rising sun every morning. He doesn’t seem to mind the relentless heat of August and September or the lack of breeze due to the collection of pine trees at his back that separate him from the west winds. Rather he sits with an immeasurable amount of joy and enthusiasm each day, enough to be catching if you are not careful. Allen caught my attention a few months back, but only this week did I finally stop and satisfy my curiosity as to why.
I first “met” Allen on my morning family run. As I would huff and puff, pushing my double stroller along and squeaking out directional commands to my five year old son on his bike, Allen would raise his fist and cheer me on! “There you go Mommy!! You can do it!!” At first I thought, “Man, I must really be a spectacle out here in public”. But later I came to realize that thought couldn’t be more removed from Allen’s mission. Allen’s voice was strong, impassioned and confident. He never stuttered or fumbled when he spoke, but instead he always had an appropriate and uplifting word for each person in that moment. With each passing lap on each passing day, Allen was there, rooting for me. There were times I would hit a real low in my run and I could see him afar off waiting for me, ready to make sure I reached my goal. Why? I mean, why would he care? I am no one. I am just one of the countless people that frequent that park. I soon found that Allen’s words were not mine alone. Once my runs became steadier and more efficient, and I started to become more present and aware of my surroundings, I could hear Allen’s voice more and more. He was rooting for everyone! To every passerby, whether walking, running with kids or with headphones, he’d flash his infectious smile, raise his hands and offer a free shot of encouragement!! It got to the point that I would look forward to seeing the then nameless shining face that soon became my friend Allen.
Could it be in this day and age, when you cannot get a person passing by on the sidewalk to even look up and say hello, that this man makes it his purpose to come out each morning to be a source of light and encouragement to as many people that would let him? Is he real? Yes he is… and I finally got the chance to tell him just how much he has meant to me over the last few months. Turns out that Allen has countless friends. While we talked, he politely interjected numerous words of encouragement and motivation to several people passing by. But it was hard to ignore the fact that just as many people stopped to interject a word with him as well. A few even shook my hand in the spirit of “Any friend of Allen is a friend of mine…” Allen spoke of his love for God and his love for God’s people. His exact phrase being, “I am so glad I know HIM.” I could see a twinkle in his eyes along with a deep hope that lit his heart aflame bright enough for the rest of the world to enjoy. It was amazing. And then it all finally came into view. Allen comes out each day, not for himself, but to be there for everyone else… most of which are strangers.
Allen, or as I would like to call him, The Encourager, I’m sure has many names. I bet these names rest in the hearts of many of the runners, joggers and walkers that enjoy the park on those mornings. I’d like to think some of those names would be Strengthener, Cheerleader, Coach, Supporter, Booster, Champion and probably most of all, Friend. I hope you are blessed enough to find someone like Allen in your world, just as I have found in mine.