08 September 2011

Focus on Others

A few years ago during a cross-country meet, one of the girls who was running for our team had to drop out after two miles because of severe pain in her legs.  She started feeling the pain almost immediately, but kept going for two whole miles before she finally couldn't go on any more.  I had run over the course to find her, and when I did she was in considerable pain, so we did what we could to ease the pain and then got her back to the finish area.  I was somewhat amazed, but definitely impressed, by her major concern when I found her:  "I've let my team down," she said.

While my first concern was to convince her that she shouldn't blame herself for something like an injury that was completely out of her control, and that no one felt that she was letting them down, I was glad to hear her words.  It seems to be getting more and more rare that athletes--especially young high-school students--are more concerned with doing well for their team's sake than they are with themselves.  She let me know in no uncertain terms that her major concern was how her team was affected by her having to drop out of the race, and that's something that gives me hope in a lot of ways.

We all are part of a greater whole.  When we do something wrong, when we do something to compromise our ethics or to hurt others or to build ourselves up at the expense of someone else, then we hurt the whole team.  And while we may not think of the guy at the cash register of the coffee shop or the mechanic who changes the oil in our car as part of our "team," they most certainly are a part of our worlds--if they weren't, we wouldn't ever run into them, now would we?  I have to think now of how I might be "hurting the team," whether that be among colleagues, students, fellow residents of our apartments, or simply members of the community in which I live.  Because even though I know that I don't ever do anything on purpose that might hurt others, I also know that some of my actions may inadvertently cause damage or pain to others.

I think that I was able to convince our runner that she wasn't letting anyone down, and that she shouldn't be harsh with herself for having dropped out of the race due to pain.  But she did me a great service by reminding me that even though her pain was very real on a physical level, there was something even more important to her on an emotional and spiritual level--not letting down the other people who made up her team.  And I thank her for that.

The entire population of the universe,
with one trifling exception, is composed of others.

John Andrew Holmes

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