Virtual Hashtag (#) Community Challenge

I’ve read a few articles about how people are responding to the COVID-19 crisis within the predictable pattern outlined in the 5 Stages of Grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Regardless of what stage you fall into today, I want to challenge you to do something special for yourself on Saturday, July 18th, 2020. I’d love to see your hashtag and have you join our Virtual # Community!


I don’t need COVID-19, racism, or political ranker to put me in a funk. I suffer from depression and anxiety, that I managed to keep in check until the death of my daughter Alana nearly 5 years ago. Since that time, I don’t have the same positive auto-pilot; instead, I’ve needed  conscious effort to keep moving forward.

Photo by Alan Hardman on Unsplash

Anyway, between ongoing grief, the crises I see in the news, and my inability to work at full capacity (speaking live to large groups and, of course, travel), I toyed with the idea of entering a pizza-eating coma while waiting for the appearance of  unicorns to signal the end of the crises.

Then I had a better idea: What if I used this time to challenge myself to–

  1. Plan and complete an activity or goal?
  2. Do something different?
  3. Do something positive and constructive?
  4. Do something for a cause?
  5. Do something that could involve others in their own passions?
  6. Do something from a socially safe distance?

So I’m creating a virtual community challenge set off by #s. I call it…


Let me tell you what I’m doing on 07/18/20 and some of the history on why I’m doing it:

I Picked a Goal: Complete a solo half marathon.

Some years ago, my then-13 year-old daughter Alana challenged me to race her a mile. I told her, “Not today, but how about I race you by the end of the summer?”

At the time, I smoked. I got winded climbing the 5 steps to my house. There was no way I could run a mile with my very strong, athletic girl without keeling over.

By the end of the summer, I still smoked. She didn’t ask again, and I pretended to forget all about it. But I didn’t. I set a very poor example for her back then, and I’ve regretted it every day since. Alana died on 09/19/15 at age eighteen. We will never run together. But what I hope to do is set an example for my son and other two daughters. I want to set and accomplish goals, and I want to be known for discipline and keeping my word.

I’m Doing Something Different.

I’m not a regular runner. I ran a half marathon a few years ago, with no planning, training, or conditioning. That’s probably why I broke my foot halfway through, and stubbornly hobbled across the finish line. I hadn’t run since. So running a half marathon is not a regular part of who I am.

I’m Doing Something Positive and Constructive.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Dark thoughts often whisper to me, thoughts like, “Just sit your butt here on the couch for a few hours” and “You know what would taste good right now? A box of donuts!“). But I want to live long enough for my children to finish school, pursue their dreams, and maybe hold a couple of grand-babies. I’m running for my life, literally and figuratively.

I’m Doing Something for a Cause.

For years I struggled with thoughts of not being enough, and I allowed guilt and shame to hold me back from feeling like I ever deserved to be anything other than miserable. So I’m running for a simple cause, under the hashtag: #grateful. I’m grateful for family, health, freedom, God, friends, my puppy, and so many other things. Being grateful is better for my mental health than anything I’ve tried.

I’m Doing Something that Other Can Join to Follow their own Passions.

After sharing that I planned to run a solo half marathon on July 18, buddy Steve Rouse said that he’d run a half marathon from his own town that same day as a way to show moral support. The idea of creating a virtual community started there.

I’m not passionate about running. I’m not sure if Steve is, either. But 07/18/20 is not about running. It’s about having a cause. My cause is to demonstrate gratitude in action. Maybe Steve’s cause is to demonstrate “You are never alone.”

I’m Doing Something from a Socially Safe Distance.

I’ll be running around Hillsborough, NC; Steve will be running near Clarksville, TN. We will be doing something together for different reasons on the same day to create a virtual community, one what we’d like to invite you to join.

Will You Join Us?

My Alana hand-feeding squirrels 3 weeks before she passed

If you want to participate, pick an activity. IT CERTAINLY DOESN’T HAVE TO BE RUNNING OR ANYTHING PHYSICAL! Maybe it’s cleaning out your garage, walking a mile, riding your bike for 5 miles, feeding birds at a park, playing a game with your family. Your activity or goal is just something that is different from your norm

Your goal should be positive and constructive for you and/or others. Maybe on the 18th you’ll take a long walk alone in the woods. Perhaps it’s preparing a favorite meal for your family just to show them how much you love them!

Then create a cause hashtag (#) that tells why you are doing it (e.g., #family, #Godtime, #freedom, #blacklivesmatter, etc.). Make it something personal, spiritual, social, relational, etc. to you. Do if for whatever cause drives you. And make it something you can do on your own (although it’s fine to include others).

Finally, add updates using hashtag #leadtoengage (my website), so we can follow our progress together. #Leadtoengage represents that you aren’t waiting around for others to engage you, but you are actively leading yourself to engage and thrive. That’s a virtual community. While you might not be surrounded by other people, you will have the thoughts and support of this virtual community.

If you’re interested in joining, please post your plans and/or comment on this blog or a hashtag on your social media with your 07/18/20 details so we can see what people are doing and encourage one another. Stay tuned!


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