You Matter Marathon — no running required

Six weeks, she thought, that’s all she would need to “unfry” from the corporate job she left before finding a new one. She said she just needed a break. She had no desire to start her own business, but after six weeks turned into six years of freelancing, she realized she never wanted to go back to the corporate life.

Cheryl Rice

That’s when Cheryl Rice — author, speaker, and life coach — started Your Voice Your Vision, a business offering practical strategies for women to build up their confidence as leaders by looking within themselves.

In 2016, Rice launched the You Matter Marathon that has become a global social movement. During November, people are invited to give out business cards with just the the words “You Matter” on them.

Her original goal of sharing 10,000 cards for distribution was quickly eclipsed, and she decided to run the marathon again this past November. More than 70,000 people from around the world have participated by signing up on her website. Civic organizations, religious organizations, schools, corporations, and individuals received 30 You Matter cards at no charge to hand out each day during the month of November.

After taking care of the costs in 2016, Rice found a few sponsors but still financed most of the 2017 effort. This year, she hopes to have corporate sponsors fully fund the venture.

Genesis of You Matter

After a colleague gave Rice such a card, she was so touched by the sentiment that she ordered her own set of cards. She began handing them out to friends and family to let them know that she recognized and appreciated them. After a while, she began handing them out to people she interacted with on a daily basis: the dry cleaner, the cheese merchant, people at the farmers market.

The reaction, said Rice, was almost always the same: People stopped and flipped the card over. Realizing that she wasn’t trying to sell them anything, they just smiled. That response left her with a warm feeling that she’d done something good, something worthwhile.

One day, waiting in line at the supermarket, Rice heard the checkout clerk ask the customer in front of her how she was doing.

“My husband lost his job, my son is up to his old tricks, and I don’t know how I’m going to get through the holidays,” she heard the woman answer as she used food stamps to pay for her order.

Rice wanted to help, but she didn’t know how. Should she say something? Maybe pay for the woman’s groceries? Frozen with indecision, she ended up doing nothing.

But as she turned to put her cart away in the parking lot, she saw the woman again and plucked up her courage to approach her.

“I said, ‘You know, I couldn’t help but hear you’re going through a really hard time right now, and I’m so sorry. I just want you to have this.’ And I gave her a you matter card, and she started to cry,” Rice recalled.

“She said, ‘You have no idea what this means to me,” and we hugged.”

That was the first card she gave to a stranger.

“I just took a chance,” said Rice. “I was so moved, and I thought this is so powerful, and I wanted other people to experience it.”

And that was the motivation for the first marathon.

She’s now distributed about 500,000 cards in 64 countries, and she’s started a Facebook community.

“People are attracted to this because it gives them a tangible way of making a connection. I’m honestly not sure if I would have said anything to that woman in the parking lot if I didn’t have something to offer her,” Rice said. “It lifted the tension to focus on the card. It was just a practical and powerful way for her to feel that she was seen and that she was of significance.”

As for the future

As she continues her speaking engagements, Rice hopes to develop a keynote address on the concept of “mattering for organizations. I think it’s so vital for corporations to let their employees know that they matter.”

That’s an area the King of Prussia native knows well. After earning her master’s in psychology and human development, Rice went into corporate life, working in leadership development.

By the time she reached her late 30s, however, Rice said she was just burned out. With a passion for coaching, she obtained her life-coaching certification and began a practice. That devotion to her work continues, but she’s even more passionate about the recent marathons she’s been running.

Rice’s civic pride is evident when she speaks about the Super Bowl-winning Eagles’ effect on Philadelphia.

“We’re the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, I just want to …keep up that type of energy,” she said.  “We can honor one another without always agreeing with each other. We can be courteous and appreciative and help people find ways to create a world that we all want to live in.”

After all, as Rice might point out, we all matter.

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