I came undone this week … in the best way possible. My 12-year-old son, Bennet, just started running cross country. He had his second meet yesterday. There’s always so much excitement and nerves on race day. It’s exhilarating to watch him work through his emotions. Last week I missed the beginning of the race because they started it earlier than expected. I wasn’t about to have that happen again. I was there WELL AHEAD of start time and Bennet greeted me with a warm hug and introduced me to his coach. He was jittery, smiley, excited, goofy, and wanted it to start already!
When the gun sounded, I watched him take off in the pack of kids engulfed in a cloud of dirt as they pounded the ground with their eager feet. I chatted with a few friends as we waited and around the nine-minute mark, we started wondering when the first runner would show. Mario, Bennet’s best friend, was one of the first to cross the finish line. As the runners sprinted toward the end with angst and sheer determination, I cheered and hollered with tears in my eyes as if they were each mine.
As runner after runner came around the bend, I started to wonder where my Bennie was. Had he gotten off track? Had he fallen? At about the fourteen-minute mark I saw his bright yellow, same-as-when-I-went-there, Chico Junior High shirt. I started yelling with a crack in my voice and tears streaming down my face, “Go Bennie!” He crossed the line, did some cute dance and proceeded to the drink stand.
With sweat running down his cherry red face and a smile so wide I could hardly see his eyes, I approached him and asked him how it went. He said emphatically and joyfully, “GREAT!” Considering he had come in 7th in his age division last time, I was curious why this time was different but ever so gently I inquired, “Tell me more.” He went on to say that he was really pushing himself and about to start sprinting when a teammate fell down behind him. Without a second thought, he stopped, noticed he cut his leg, lifted him up, put his arm around his shoulder, and carried him off the path. He stayed until someone came to help him. It was only then that he felt he could continue the race.
He finished 49th. He said he didn’t care what position he came in, that it wasn’t about that for him. He told me he would always do what he did today. For him it was simple, it was about helping a friend who needed help (by the way, he didn’t even know him). Pretty simple? I think not. I’d say that was a pretty profound gesture of human kindness.
In a time when it seems to be all about negativity and hate, Bennet showed an incredible amount of love, compassion and grace. I was so moved by his selfless act. I was proud, goodness sakes, YES, but it was more. I couldn’t stop thinking about what this seemingly simple gesture really meant.
I learned a great deal from this kind-hearted kid yesterday. He demonstrated that it’s not about winning in the traditional sense, it’s just not. He showed me that we don’t need to be first, second or even third to feel that we won the race. Winning isn’t about the medal or the trophy, it’s about how we live; what we do for others; how we propel love into our world and the world of others. He taught me it means more to step outside of our own interests (our ego) and step into love. And that’s exactly what he did. We need A LOT more of that in our world. What a triumphant day. What an incredible human. I am the real winner here. I won the lottery when I became his mom.