You might remember back in September when I wrote a blog post and newspaper column about Ted, the gentleman who brightens my morning run with his cheerful greeting. I happened to see Ted the Saturday the article ran in the newspaper. He flagged me down mid-run to tell me how much it had meant to him that I had stopped a few days earlier to thank him for being a bright spot in my day. Our conversation also gave me the opportunity to tell Ted that I’d written my monthly column about him, and that it was running in the newspaper that day.
Ted and I got to chatting — me a little breathlessly and sweatily, as I am not in the best shape — and I learned he is a writer too. He published his first book in 2015, a novel about a Nebraska farm boy who enlists in the Air Force during World War II and fights as a bombardier. Ted is now working on a memoir, which he hopes to be able to share with his grandchildren.
We agreed to meet the following Saturday morning on the trail for a book exchange. Ted would bring me a signed copy of his book, You Can Only Be Lucky; I’d bring him a signed copy of Katharina and Martin Luther.
That morning, back from my run, I pulled his novel from the ziplock bag and read the inscription. “I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it,” Ted wrote. “Thank you for the wonderful article you wrote in the Lincoln Journal Star. I really appreciate you doing that.” And then he signed off with his signature salutation: “Be sure to have a super fantastic wonderful day!”
Turns out, I’m not the only one who has noticed Ted’s warmth and kindness on the trail. Joyce, the mom of one of my son Rowan’s classmates, stopped me in the middle school hallway on parent-teacher conference night: “My husband left the newspaper folded open to your article on the kitchen counter for me,” she said. “We both knew exactly who you were writing about!” Joyce and her husband are runners, and they, too, have been the welcome recipients of Ted’s exuberant greetings.
This morning when I saw Ted on the trail, he told me multiple people have recognized him since the article ran in the paper. “Hey, you’re Ted!” they exclaim, their faces brightening as they pass by. Ted said he’s noticed more people respond to his greetings now, and some even shout out their own salutation before Ted can greet them first. Even the cyclists sing out a hello as they whiz by.
I love this story for so many reasons. First, it’s been a delight to get to know Ted a little bit. Who would have thought two strangers — a retired chief financial officer and a middle-aged mom — could find common ground in the early morning hours on a random bike trail in Lincoln, Nebraska? It just goes to show that human beings are created for connection and relationship, and we often have more in common than we might first assume.
Mostly, though, I love that Ted exemplifies the impact of a random act of kindness. His generosity and warmth have created a ripple effect that reverberates well beyond that one bike trail he walks every morning. Dozens of people have been positively affected and influenced by his simple yet heartfelt greeting.
We don’t often get to see what happens when we offer our kindness to the world. We might assume it doesn’t make any difference at all because we don’t see the ripple effect – the smile a person carries in her heart for the rest of the day, the kind word that’s then passed on to someone else. My experience with Ted has reminded me that we can change the course of a stranger’s day for the better simply by offering our words as a gift.