Applaud The Great, Cheer for The Amazing
Applaud The Great, Cheer for The Amazing
Last week was my son’s last middle school cross country meet of the year. The regional championships. Over 20 schools, all with young runner’s hopeful to beat their best times and trying to win a medal for themselves and a trophy for their team. The girls’ varsity ran first. Then boys’ varsity. After those 2 races were complete, they had what they call the open division where boys and girls run together. It’s a 2-mile race and the winners for both boys and girls were well under 12 minutes.
One of the most wonderful things about a cross-country meet is the crowd. Everyone cheers for everyone. We scream for our own kids and yell for every kid from your district, but we all applaud and cheer for everyone. I met a mom from Chelsea whose oldest son plays football. We never talked about the Dexter-Chelsea football game that happened 5 days before (and as a Dexter resident, we won’t be talking about it here either). I met a family from Saline. For those of you who know nothing about cross country, Saline has an amazing cross-country program. Simply amazing. But when a cluster of kids came running by, we would applaud and cheer them all. A wonderful experience to be sure.
My son ran with the varsity, and we agreed to stay to watch the open race, as we were giving one of his friends a ride home from the meet in Milan. Chitchatting with other parents, walking back and forth to get the best views of the athletes, and yelling especially loud when your school’s runners came by. Then I saw him. During the open race, there was a runner in last place. It appeared that running wasn’t a natural thing for him to do. He was flanked by 6 other runners, all encouraging him, pacing him, supporting him. These runners didn’t have the numbers pinned to their shirts. They were running to support this runner with special needs. His smile was huge, and his pace was slow but constant. We were near the finish line area and the way the track was laid out, it was almost like the athletes had to run two ‘laps.’ We applaud everyone at cross country meets, but when this very special young man came towards the end of lap 1, those near the finish went absolutely bananas. Cheering and screaming. The 6 angels running with him pointed at the crowd and his smile was ear to ear. And on he ran. I’m pretty sure it started raining at that point, but it seemed like the only raindrops falling were hitting me square in the eyes and no where else. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. That is, until the end of the race.
Not long after his first lap was done and he raced on, the leaders appeared, and we applauded and rooted them on to the finish. My son appeared with his friends from the varsity race as well as his other friends who just finished the open race. They were talking and sweating and catching their breath as many people started to head toward the Milan High School football stadium for the awards ceremonies. But a lot of people milled around the finish line. The rain grew steadier, and we were getting ready to go to the stadium when I saw them. They were 500 yards away, but they were coming. 6 angles flanking a very special runner. I pointed to my wife, son and his friends and said, “The race isn’t over.” No one said a word. We stayed. So did a couple hundred other people. As he got to within the last 100 or so yards, those who stayed were rewarded. We saw a young man whose smile was even bigger than it was when he passed by 20 minutes earlier on his first lap. The 6 angels were right there with him. I tried to see what school they were from, but that damn rain was really in my eyes now. He crossed the finish line, and the place went nuts. The 6 angels all hugged him, and his smile was enormous. He finished the race!
My friends, there is a whole lot of terrible happening in the world right now. But if we allow ourselves the chance to just be still and observe for a little while, we can find glimpses of Heaven right here on Earth. My latest glimpse happened in Milan. I don’t know his name or what school he attends, but he and his 6 angels reminded me that goodness exists. The great were awarded medals shortly after that moment on the football field. The Amazing were hugging at the finish line. Those who waited were rewarded with a small peek at the very best humans are. On a rainy Wednesday in Milan, Michigan, amazing won the race.
Steve is a Dexter Resident and the Owner, Chief Cheerleader, Vice President of Happy Tears, and Angel Appreciator of Better Place Consulting, a success coaching and small business consulting company. Reach out to him at email@example.com