I completed my first lap at the high school track when the gym class showed up. The students began running after receiving directions from a man in sweat pants, with a whistle, and a clip board (Boy, did he fit the stereotypical gym teacher description!)
Some caught up to me and passed me with their $100 Nikes and their gifts of young, agile, and energetic bodies. It wasn’t difficult for them to pass a 43 year old, rickety, and sore body, whose feet were banging the ground like a jackhammer from wearing well-worn $15 Walmart sneakers.
About 1/2 the track ahead of me, I saw a boy with his hands on hips and struggling to catch his breath. He was almost as wide as he was tall. He saw me coming, so he started to jog. He kept peeking over his shoulder. I could see in his face, he wanted to walk but he kept jogging.
With a disappointed look, he moved over to let me pass. He didn’t want me to pass him. He had pride. I approached his side. “Keep it up. You’re doing great. I know, this ain’t it easy.” I extended my hand and he gave me a high five and a smile.
The class had finished their required laps, except for the “fat kid.” He was well ahead of me again, peeking over his shoulder. He began to run but only made it a few steps before he started walking again. He looked discouraged. I had a plan.
I got passed by “The Athlete”- you know, the good looking kid without an ounce of fat on him. The heart throb of all the cheerleaders. He caught up to the struggling young man. “C’mon John, let’s do this. You can make it.” That was my plan too: Encouragement. Nicely done Athlete.
I caught up to them. I gave John a pat on the back. “We’re gonna finish this together John. Let’s go buddy.”
He grunted, “Ok.”
John was moving. He was trying. He was putting forth an honest effort, even though it was painful. Athlete and I kept talking to him. John was running faster while grimacing and groaning the whole way. His classmates gathered at the Finish Line and started to cheer for him. Maybe some of them were friends. Maybe, some of them were people who used to pick on him. Regardless, they all saw his fight and his determination.
I told him, “Don’t let this old man beat you John. You can do it. Finish now.”
He clenched his teeth. “Uggghhhhh.” With a final burst of energy, John gave it all he had. I deliberately slowed my pace and watched John pull away from me. He crossed the finish line with Athlete by his side, ahead of the old man.
As I passed John, in front of a crowd of his peers, I shouted “You did it John. You beat this old man.”
With his hands on top of his head and in obvious pain, I saw him smile.
I am proud of John. He never gave up. He struggled but he never quit. I am proud of Athlete for helping a classmate. I don’t know these kids. I don’t know their personalities. I only know that I saw a beautiful display of heart and soul in a couple of teenagers. It was the best and most rewarding run of my life!
How many “Johns” do we know in our lives? How many people do we know who silently struggle with issues in their lives? Children aren’t the only victims of bullying. It’s not that hard to give a “high five” or let someone cross the finish line ahead of us. Wouldn’t it be great if our society was more cooperative rather than competitive? Every now and then, swallow your pride and check your ego at the door. It might be the best thing that happens to “John” that day.
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.