In praise of cheerleading

Ramona and LumaThis weekend my nieces took part in the children’s mini-marathon in Greenwich Park.

After a mass warm up with stretches and jumping jacks, we saw them off at the starting line. Luma (5 and a mini-marathon first timer) ran with her mum, and Ramona (7 and a veteran) with my brother. The route looped and snaked around which made it possible for us to cross the park and stand by the side of the track several times, scanning the oncoming stream of people until our little runners came into view.

Whenever we spotted them we started yelling:

Go Ramona! Go Ramona!

Luma! Luma! Luma! Luma!

As they jogged closer and suddenly clocked us all shouting for them, their faces lit up.

It isn’t always this easy for us to cheer each other on. We place conditions on each other, rather than remembering that we are all running as fast as we are able to. We forget that we still need cheerleaders once we’re grown-ups. We only want to  dole out our precious cheers to those who’ve already cheered us. We are too tangled up in our own needs. We think cheerleading will make people complacent or lazy or spoilt.

I wish you’d seen the light shining from my nieces’ faces. You would want to cheer them on too, and all the other children who ran 2.62 miles around the park, and all the parents. They all worked so hard, getting stitches and feeling jealous of the boys who overtook them and getting thirsty and feeling afraid that they’d never make it to the finish line.

Who can you cheer on today? Send a text or email, write a letter, or pop round and give them a non-virtual hug. Maybe they’ve got achy legs or an achy heart. Maybe they’ve been pushing through the pain barrier for a long time. Tell them what you appreciate about them. Tell them that you see them. Tell them you don’t need them to do anything to earn your cheering.

We all work really hard, running our own snaking, looping races. Can you see me at the side of your track? Have you heard me yelling yet? Keep going! Keep going! You’re doing your best! You are loved! You are loved!