Both of my sons do cross country running. My older son is driven by competition and determination to run faster than his last race (and his peers). He has a desire to win. My younger son is mostly chasing after approval from his brother.
My older son convinced his grandparents to come to a recent race (impressive, considering my parents aren’t known to be awake, much less out of the house sitting on metal bleachers at 6:45 in the morning :)) He was convinced he would place in the top 30 (out of over 200 runners.) He doesn’t lack confidence. We reminded him not to be cocky or complacent. It’s easy to overestimate our own abilities and underestimate the abilities of others.
The race began and the massive group of boys moved from the starting line. From the stands, it reminded me of a swarm of bees. He passed by in the first group of twenty or so boys. He ran at an easy pace and I crossed my fingers he wouldn’t tire out before the race’s end.
I waited near the finish line, camera in hand. Searching. Counting runners. I got past thirty with no sight of my son so I quit counting. I wondered what happened. He started so well. Soon, I saw him sprinting around the curve, toward the finish line. He passed a few runners in the final seconds and ended up number 51.
“Somebody tripped me,” he proclaimed after the race, anger and disappointment in his voice. I asked more questions and found out that it happened at a point where the path narrowed. I told him I didn’t think it was done on purpose. There were a lot of boys with the same goal in a tight space. Feet tangled. He seemed skeptical.
“So, what did you do when you fell?” I asked him. He gave me a strange look, so I elaborated. “Did you get right back up and start running?” He shook his head. “No, I had dirt on my knee so I had to brush it off. If they hadn’t tripped me, I would’ve been in the top 30.”
“Do you think you could’ve run with dirt on your knee?” I asked. He nodded his head. “That might’ve helped you place higher, right?” There’s always time to tend to wounds after the critical moments (the finish line) have passed.
Once the blaming eased, and he seemed to accept it was truly an accident, I praised him on what he did well. Instead of giving up after he stumbled, he did get back up. He gave all his effort until the very end. To me, this is bigger than if he’d easily taken first place.
That is one life skill he needs to know to succeed. Life is full of trips and stumbles (and yes sometimes some pushes and back-stabs). Not dwelling on the wrongs in hard, but moving on is necessary if we want to find some measure of peace.
We may not have the big corner office, the vacation homes or lavish lifestyle of those the world tries to convince us to emulate. The value of our lives isn’t determined by the end result of our income or social status – what’s important is how our lives are lived.
He’s disappointed he didn’t land in the top 30. Disappointment is a part of life. Learning and improving our skills are as well. He will practice more and there will be other races.
Am I proud of his 51st place finish? You bet I am!
This post made me think of a song by Toby Mac (Get Back Up.) I like the message in the song- and the music is great, too! Have a beautiful Sunday.