No Wimps Continued

June 27th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Every Korean American kid growing up had one of these – an Ivy League cousin. Damn you, Ivy League cousin! Mine was not Ivy League, but that’s “splitting hairs”. He finished his undergrad in a little over two years, and went on to MIT for his Masters and Doctorate. Crushed all of this before turning 30. Pssh. The funny thing is I don’t even know this guy. I’ve seen him once, maybe. Oh, but my folks made sure I knew of him … well, of his academic exploits, anyway. What does an eleven year old kid with a average do with that kind of info? What is Massachusetts Institute of Technology? If the idea was to motivate me into the Oak paneled halls of some dusty Ivy League Institution, it didn’t work. What it did accomplish was it told me: “In things that matter most, you don’t measure up kid.”

Not good. So, what now? The answer isn’t to blow up MIT. Or stop handing out grades. Nor do we solve anything by disparaging the accomplishments of Ivy League cousin. I think it’s an adjustment in the “What matters most” category. And as I’ve said before, I think children are often closer to “What matters most” than we adults. Your child may not get into MIT. He may not play in the NBA. She may not be a concert pianist. Not everyone is a doctor or an Olympic athlete. But they can all take a step toward Courage, Humility, Compassion 

He just missed qualifying for Championships by a second. It was the last meet of the season, so the last chance to get a qualifying time. All week, he had worked hard, putting in extra time outside of practice. As he walked briskly away from the timers, shoulders shrugged and head down as boys often do when trying to hold back tears, I saw he had missed it. When I caught him, he told me what I already knew – his face trying without much success to hide the disappointment. If at that moment, being the fastest was the most important thing, I would have been useless to my Son in his time of need. I haven’t always gotten it right, but on that day, I grabbed him by his little shoulders. I told him it was okay to be disappointed. I was disappointed for him. I told him I was sorry. Then I told him how proud I was of him. He had the courage to believe he could do it. And he worked hard and raced hard. “You gave it everything. I saw it. There will be other races. You are great.”

I don’t want to do away with races. It was a precious time for us to remember what matters most. On a stage of competition, in his time of failure, we were given an opportunity to affirm his greatness. Hey, he’s no wimp.


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