On Tuesday afternoon I had really incredible proud mom moments.
Tuesday afternoon was the local junior high cross country meet. Two of my sons, Shane and Ben (12 and 11 years old), are in seventh grade and run on the cross country team. Ben's true love is soccer, but he is a great runner and is having a lot of fun in cross country and doing very well. Shane has a God-given talent when it comes to running. He ran a half-marathon in 1:33 this summer. He set the school mile record in sixth grade at 5:25. He got to go to practice and camp this summer with the high school cross country team and was still one of the best runners even though he was only going in to seventh grade. He is a natural, and watching him run is a blast.
Shane took off at the beginning of the race and that was the only time anyone was close to him. He led from start to finish, and finished well ahead of any competitors. He ran the 1.5 mile cross country course in 8:23, which is a 5:35 average pace. It was awesome to hear the high school team and other parents cheering for him and talking about him. (And I laughed when one mom said to me, "I think there is something genetic going on here!") :) I cheered loud, and I was proud.
But it was what happened after that that made me even more proud.
After Shane accepted congrats, cheered in friends, etc. he came over to talk to me. Most of the kids had finished the race and we were waiting for the awards. And then we saw J. slowly moving along the course, with a good half mile or so to go. J. is a big kid. He is tall and he is overweight, and certainly is not built like the "typical" junior high cross country runner. His parents wanted him to do a sport. He tried football and did not enjoy it, and cross country is the other option.
We clapped and cheered for J. as he want by and I got teary-eyed seeing how hard it was for him to run, and yet how determined he was. He was dead last by quite a bit. Most of the other kids were done. Not many people were still paying attention. It would have been easy to quit or walk. But he kept running.
I was going to say something to Shane about how awesome it was that J. was doing cross country and how brave I thought he was, but before I could say anything my Shane looked at me and said, "Mom... I am just SO proud of J. At the beginning of the season he could not even run a lap around the track without walking and now look at how great he is doing!" Shane didn't see an overweight kid or a slow kid. He saw someone that was making progress - someone that was doing great.
And then Shane took off, and ran with his friend, encouraged him, and kept him company. When they got close to the finish line Shane stopped so J. could finish on his own, which he did to much applause and cheering from friends, parents, and teammates. It was awesome.
I told Shane that as proud as I was to watch him run super fast and win a race by a huge margin, that I was MUCH more proud of the way he treated his friend and teammate, and the love, kindness, and sportsmanship he showed that afternoon.
I want to tell J. not to give up, not to get frustrated, and not to be discouraged. He may be finishing last, but HE IS FINISHING. I want to tell him that even though it is really, really hard, that it is worth it. I want to tell him that just over three years ago I was the overweight mom who couldn't run more than a slow mile at a time, and now I am chasing the dream of qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials. I want to tell him that running has not only changed my physical body, but has given me inner strength, confidence, satisfaction, and joy. I want to tell him to keep at it.
I want to tell him he is great.
Have you seen this commercial? I am not usually a big Nike fan, but this commercial gets me every single time.
And here is the video clip of Shane finishing the race. I won't share the video clip of him with J. because J. is not my child, but I promise that clip is much more impressive than this one.
Do what is hard. Step outside your comfort zone. Push yourself. Use your talents. Encourage others. Lift up, support, and encourage your peers.
See the greatness in others.