March 15, 2012
The agony of defeat. I felt it today. My oldest son, who does not have a lot of opportunities to bask in the glory of victory was a finalist in his school district cooking contest. The finals were today, and they did a great job of making it feel like a big deal. There were six kids there, two from each middle school and they prepared their recipes, set up their display tables, and were judged. His food was wonderful and he had friends, teachers, and family there rooting him on. Since there were six competitors, they had three “honorable mentions” and then third, second, and first place. My little chef’s name was called first as honorable mention.
I was crushed for him. As we were leaving he was crying. My husband asked him why he was crying (it seemed obvious to me that he was broken by disappointment). However, his response was, “I’m just so happy!” He felt honored to be a part of it. He got a medal with his name engraved on it. He got a shirt that says, “I cooked my way to the district finals.” He had the people he loved with him. In his mind, he was a winner.
I am humbled by his attitude. It is now three hours since we walked out of there and he is still wearing his medal, still beaming with pride. And he is planning what he is going to make next year. What a kid. He’s proud of what he accomplished, and it doesn’t really matter to him that someone else accomplished (or was recognized) more. He is going to take everything he learned from this experience and do even better next time.
Why did God give me such great children? Why do we find such gratitude and joy in places we don’t expect it? What can we learn from watching other people live their lives well that we can’t learn from our own experiences? I am always asking my kids if they are being humbly grateful or grumbly hateful, and today for sure was a divine example of being humbly grateful. When we do our best, we are a success. It doesn’t matter what anybody else measures us by, in the end it is just us and God. Gold medals and large salaries and public recognition are not what we really need. What we really need is to know that we have used the gifts that God has given us, and that we used them the best way that we could. Outcomes and benchmarks are not everything. The spark of God in us is immeasurable, but infinitely dear.