To the outside world, most Middle School Cross Country meets are “just another race.” Races are epic though in their own right aren’t they? Races are where we learn how to persevere and find what we’re made of: Students learn how to push past the voices they hear in themselves and others, voices like, “It can’t be done”, or “You’re not good enough.” On the course, those false voices fall silent to deaf ears, because there is a goal, a finish line, and when students cross it they know they are different, better, able. I believe these moments spillover into the classroom. I’ve watched it as a Faculty member: Students who believe they can’t do anything, suddenly join the Cross Country team and realize they can, and hearing “I can” makes all the difference in and to who they are and who they become.
Yesterday though was different than “just another race” from where I stood. On the walk-through before the race students came to me and said, “We want to know if we did the right thing?” They told me students from another school wanted to know what the “Him” stood for in the “All for Him” slogan on their backs. “The team asked us if the “Him” stood for God and Jesus, or just God and we said both. Is that correct?” “Yes,” I said, “Him is both.” I told them how important their jerseys are and to remember this. After the walk through, we gathered at the start line to pray. One by one students then prayed (and without my prodding) prayers like these: “I pray that the other teams see more than talent, but that they see you;” “I pray that we encourage each other;” “I pray that we encourage others not just on our team;” “I pray that we honor you first.”
I recently read that “To see the good in others and let them see themselves in the mirror of our regard is to help someone grow to become the best they can be. Greater is the one who causes others to do good than the one who does good himself. To help others become what they can be is done not by criticism or negativity but by searching out the good in others, and helping them see it, recognize it, own it and live it.”
Today we took a break to watch the movie “McFarland USA,” a true story about a Cross Country team. It is an important story for the team to watch and we watch it every year. Our goal is for them to learn that after we finish a race, it’s o.k. to grab water, but then it is up to each one of us to return to the finish line and “cause others to do good” by encouraging the very last one in as a team, despite our own needs.
What does it mean to be great? Jesus himself tells us in the Gospel of Matthew that “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We wear jerseys embroidered with “All for Him” but these are only words if we don’t encourage one another when it’s most difficult for us, and when we do this that’s when others see Him, recognize Him, and through us learn how to truly live like him and “All for Him.”