finish the race

November 29, 2014

Some days I feel pretty spoiled. Work days that include running around with little ones, dressed like a turkey, fall into that category.
Today I wasn’t sure how the day would pan out. I was, quite frankly, stressed about the prospect of it. But of course, every time I feel that way, things seem to come together. And that they did.
On one level, I was worried about the change in the workday itself. Knowing that the annual turkey trot would be tucked in the midst of my normal classes left me nervous about the potential rush. But on a day I was expecting to be on my own, a library angel who comes to visit me sometimes showed up, clearing the day of the tasks that tend to accumulate and eat up the time. There was time enough to do it . . . time enough to say, “Yep, you bet I’ll be out there running with you guys!” One little one I’d cheered on a few times during her P.E. class which, one day a week, coincided with my Chinese class. When weather cooperates, my teacher and I have been holding our class outside, so I’d been able to watch the progress of the kindergarteners in the weeks leading up to the run. This one would always finish last, with tears of frustration as she expressed her dislike of running. One day I left my teacher and began to run with her, telling her she could do it: she could cross that finish line. It struck me that she was very self-aware for her age—aware of how she compared to others in her class, and aware of others in general. When she began to cry, she told me that she knew her mother was going to see her finish last when it came time for the race . . . said her mother would be disappointed. I could only hope that I was speaking truth when I told her that no, her mother would just see how hard she had worked, and would be proud.
That was last week. Yesterday, when I realized I’d be able to run with them, I tucked into the classroom. Last year they had given me an extra of the turkey hats they made, so I wanted to see if I could run in style once again. V pointed me to the bin of extra turkey-hat parts and I quickly stapled one together as she put the finishing touches on her own. Then I joined the head-feathered parade, filing down the stairs and out to the starting line with the class. As expected, the run was a struggle for T. What I did not expect was that, instead of just bemoaning the difficulty of the run, she had a new frustration: her mother, she said, had promised to come, but was not there. I have no idea what kept this mother from coming to cheer her daughter on [or run with her, as some parents did], but it made for a whole new significance to those 10 minutes for me. I couldn’t really say anything worthwhile to her—nothing new, at least. I still encouraged her to just do her best, and to focus on finishing. I realized, however, that the most important thing I did on this day was to just run alongside her. I don’t know what she came away from that race with. But I do know that she knew I was there. And, you know, she ran that whole thing . . . finishing well ahead of several others in her class!
*A teacher of this class was running with them as well. After the race she sent me a few of the photos she had taken. “His light shining down on you,” is what she wrote. She has this tendency to take sunbeam photos and, when I ask her how she does it she just shrugs and claims ignorance. I think it’s a pretty cool gift :-)

2 Responses to “finish the race”

  1. Tucker said

    Smiling! Hugs!

  2. Bea Hicks said

    I love this – how encouraged you must be. Keep these coming.

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