My eight-year-old daughter Sarah inspired my socks off yesterday. Actually, I was wearing fur-lined snowboots, but she inspired me just the same. I went to watch her participate in her school’s annual Turkey Trot with the rest of her third-grade class.
Fortunately, the storm from the day before had subsided. It was still nippy out, and the ground was slippery with slightly melting snow, but the sun shone brightly.
“I won’t win, Mom,” Sarah had predicted glumly that morning. “I’m the slowest girl in the third grade.”
“Just have fun and try your best,” I had encouraged her as she left for school.
The race started, and my daughter was soon well behind the pack. She had left the winter jacket she usually wore at a friend’s house. The one she had on was a hand-me-down from an older cousin. It was too big for her, and the hood wouldn’t quit flopping over her eyes. She had also forgotten to put on gloves that morning. I had let her borrow mine before the race. They were too large for her hands, so she kept pushing the hood out of her face with these hopelessly floppy leather gloves that fit her like swim flippers.
I stood at the finish line as the runners came in. Soon, my daughter was left on the race course–alone. My heart sank as the seconds ticked by, lengthening into a minute, then two. A teacher went out to walk the last of the course with Sarah. I could have hugged that woman. At least my baby wouldn’t have to cross the finish line all by herself, under the stares of her classmates.
Finally, the dean said, “We have one more friend to cheer on.”
The entire third grade began to chant in unison, “Sarah! Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!”
I held out my arms, and my little girl rushed into them, burying her face in my purple coat to hide her humiliation.
“They’re all cheering for you!” I told her.
“Because I came in last,” she whispered.
“No!” I turned her around to face the other students. “They’re cheering for you because you kept on walking. You could have given up. You could have quit, but you didn’t. You kept right on walking. That means a lot.”
I gave my little girl one more bear hug and sent her off with the rest of her class to finish the school day. No more fuss. She inspired the socks off me. But at the same time, I hope she learned some valuable lessons about perseverance, about tenacity, about acting with dignity when victory doesn’t come her way. Because to tell the truth, life will hand her more opportunities to practice perseverance than to take victory laps. She’ll need to remember how to keep on walking when she’s the only one left on the course when the ground is slippery and her hood is falling in her eyes when the way is long and lonely. As her blind mom, I know a thing or two about that. But blindness doesn’t give me a corner on that market. Tenacity and fortitude are life skills any mom should be more than ready to pass along to her daughter when the chance arises.