Country Music


Yesterday I gave a simple gift, and the one I received in return has consumed my thoughts.

Each year since the late 90’s my sister and I attend a Tim McGraw concert. I wish we would have chronicled our journey, but we think it started in college when Tim was at a festival with George Strait, then several state fairs and finally his headlining tours plus a couple of Soul 2 Souls tours with his wife, Faith Hill.

More than a concert

In our younger years, the night was about the concert and spending a little time together. Now it means so much more. We both live crazy busy lives and reside four hours apart. Now it has turned into quality time with a bonus of a Tim McGraw concert. For instance this weekend we got a hotel room, ordered room service, talked and laughed hours before and after the concert. No matter how busy life gets, we are intentional each year making this happen.

As we walked from our hotel to the concert, we passed a homeless man sitting on the ground holding a sign. I had no money, but I had something better. My smile. I made eye contact with him and smiled. And guess what? The sad look on his face soon changed to a smile.

I wondered how many, if any, smiles he received over the course of his day. He was sitting at an intersection, and as we were waiting to cross I hear a man behind me say, “Would you like some pizza? It’s really good.”

The homeless man responded so kindly. "Yes, sir. Thank you so much.”

“No problem man. Enjoy!” responded the stranger.

As I stood there on the corner, I thought how cool? Within moments this young man saw the best humankind has to offer. Maybe he was fed both mentally and physically.

Humble and Kind

As we continued onto the concert, I passed two more men with signs. I again smiled with no response. Selfishly I felt a bit rejected but then I thought back to my definition of a gift. Give something and expect nothing in return. In the past, this rejection would have stopped me from continuing to smile at strangers. As it's awkward when you smile at someone and they don't smile back. But what I learned is when your excuse you come up with not to give has to do with you and not the receiver, that's selfish. When you make it about them and not you, the response doesn't matter. You've done your part. You can't control another person.

During the concert, there was a moving moment when Tim sang his #1 song Humble and Kind. If you haven’t heard the song, check it out and pay close attention to the lyrics. Tears streamed down my face as Tim sang and I thought back to the homeless man I’d smiled at hours earlier. Humbling to acknowledge I'm no more important than a man begging on the street and kind that I’d recognize him instead of diverting attention which I’ve shamelessly done many times in the past.

I've had numerous debates with people on my giving journey about giving money to the homeless. They always ask the same question. What if they buy drugs or alcohol? What if they don't need the money and are scammers? I've thought about these questions a lot. I've concluded that if I put expectations on money I'm giving, then it’s not a gift. What if they aren't using the money for drugs or alcohol? What if they are homeless? What if your gift is the turning point in their life? If you aren't comfortable giving money, then give a smile. It costs you nothing.

The Giving Challenge

Today your Giving Challenge is moving forward you are humble and kind to all you meet. As the old saying goes…” Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” (attributed to Plato and Ian Maclaren)



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About the Author:

Stephanie Jones and her husband, Mike, live in Northwest, IN and enjoy lake life and travel. Stephanie is the author of The Giving Challenge-40 Days to a More Generous Life (on sale NOW!), a speaker, life success coach, and a daily giver. She challenges people to live their dream, discover their gifts, and do amazing things!

You can contact Stephanie by email at

I have an exercise for you.


  1. Grab a sheet of paper and pen.
  2. Write numbers 1-26 down the left side of the paper.
  3. Jot down people that have inspired you.
  4. Once your list is complete, write notes to everyone on your list. If they are no longer with us, find a family member and send them a note.

#3 may take you 15 minutes or a couple of months. That's okay. I can't tell you how powerful it was for me to make my list. I know the process affected me and those of you that are kind enough to follow me on my mile by mile journey. It helped me get through a difficult time and may help you get through something in your life.

I asked you to go through the exercise so you'd understand that the task is more difficult than first perceived. There are hundreds of people that I love, that challenge and motivate me in various ways and the list wasn't intended to slight anyone. I wish I could share the formula I used to narrow it down to 26, but most of it was based on feeling. Feeling strong enough about someone's situation that it would motivate me mile by mile.

I must be honest…I cheated on mile 17. I didn't choose one person for this mile, but three people, one family. Their story is intertwined and there is no way I could choose only one. I knew that for this mile, I needed to keep them together. I needed to pray for them as a family and draw from the strength they pull from each other.

Mile #17 was dedicated to a high school friend and fellow track/cross country runner Pam. In high school, I strove to be a runner like Pam. She worked hard and each time she stepped onto the track it seemed so effortless. She left nothing to chance and when she crossed the finished line it was evident she had given it her all.

Pam's children Brookelyn and Derek have Dysautonomia, a medical condition that causes a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. Here's a little physiology lesson, the automatic functions of the body are the ones we consciously don't have to think about, such as heart rate, digestion, blood pressure, kidney function and body temperature control.

They have also been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease which is a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria, the organelles that are the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria are found in every cell of the human body except red blood cells, and convert the energy of food molecules into the ATP that powers most cell functions. Symptoms include poor growth, loss of muscle coordination, muscle weakness, visual problems, hearing problems, learning disabilities, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disorders, neurological problems, autonomic dysfunction and dementia (wikipedia).Can you imagine being a child and having deal with such a diseases?

Pam shares the struggles of this disease honestly and openly with her friends and family on facebook. But I have taken note, as others have, of common themes in Pam's journey.

  1. Thankfulness. She is often thankful for friends, family and coworkers. Never losing sight of what is important or taking these people or things for granted.
  2. Fighters. I love that she shows us pictures of her children in the hospital smiling and snuggling together. She refers to them often as fighters. I love that term. A fighter never gives up. A fighter pushes through tough times. And fighters, as she notes, don't complain.
  3. Faith. Pam often draws on her Christian faith to get her through the day. She shares her faith openly and provides encouragement to all that read her posts.
  4. Heroes. Her heroes are not in capes, tight pants and in a comic book. Her heroes are her children and she is theirs. Heroes are admired for their bravery, courage and noble qualities. Several weeks she posted one of my favorite quotes which I think perfectly aligns to the topic of heroes.

I must admit, mile 17 was a difficult mile for me. I wanted to walk soooo bad. I pulled out all the stops to keep me running. I have always had a passion for music and songs have been with me almost every moment, good or bad, throughout my life. And songs propelled me forward through every step of the Chicago Marathon. I knew what I needed to keep me going. I flipped through my iPod to find Jason Aldean’s She's Country and Hicktown so I could hear Adam Shoenfeld jamming on the guitar. I found myself running, playing air guitar and smiling. I'm sure I looked CRAZY...but I didn't care. Anything to get me through another mile.



If you missed my first 16 miles of the Chicago Marathon, you can check out my stories here:

Miles #1- #4

Miles #5- #8

Miles #9- #13

Miles #14- #15

Mile #16

P.S. To make sure you never miss a post, enter your email address on the right and hit SUBSCRIBE. Thank you!marathon3