The grown-ups were sitting in Dunkin Donuts at the Outer Banks when I got the text from Elizabeth that she’d just passed the halfway mark of her first 8K. Since she was walking, and her cousin Sarah Beth was jogging, I knew that SB would soon be nearing the finish line.

“Let’s go Y’all,” I said, wrapping my pumpkin muffin and heading for the door. “If Lib’s halfway through, then Sarah Beth is probably getting close to the finish line, and we don’t want to miss that!.” 

We hustled to the car and rushed back to the school where the 8K had begun 30 minutes prior. Jumping out of my Highlander, we scattered in different directions: David to the race course to spot his nieces along the route, Becky and I to the inside gate of the track, and Mike and Lisa to the finish line to see Sarah Beth cross it.

I loved waiting there with Becky. We were both charged with the happy anticipation of seeing the girls come into view, feelings intensified by the gorgeous day. With temps in the 60’s, a gentle breeze, the sunshine on our arms and faces, we couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day. Then too, there was music, laughter, squeals from children, and the smell of popcorn wafting across the center of the track.

My phone rang. It was David. “Elizabeth sighted,” he said in his best military officer tone. Then he added, “She’s looking good. Strong pace.”

A few minutes later, Becky and I spotted her in the distance, and I couldn’t help but feel a mother’s pride. She had done it! She had stayed the course and completed what she had set out to do. As Elizabeth came through the open gate and onto the track, she asked me to join her in walking towards the finish line. LOVED doing that!

Earlier that morning, I had reminded both girls of one of my favorite terms in psychology, self-efficacy. Loosely defined as one’s ability to make something happen despite challenges and difficulties, I told them that self-efficacy was actually more important than ability. There are plenty of folks out there of average intellect and ability who believe in themselves and their goals so much that they work like crazy to achieve them. The moment someone decides, “I can’t,” she’s right.

As Elizabeth and I walked that last lap together, I asked, “So, was there ever a moment that you let doubt creep in? Did you ever find yourself wondering if you could do it or not?”

“No Ma’am. I knew I could do it. A couple of times, I just thought, ‘I don’t really want to.’”

I had to chuckle a little. Isn’t that often the case? We know we can. We just don’t want to. We’re tired or stressed or bored. We’d rather be stretched out in a hammock somewhere. We’d rather be doing anything than what we’re doing. And yet, there are times when quitting is not an option. We all have to do things that we don’t want to do whether it’s performing our jobs, getting up with a crying baby, paying bills, doing our homework, or completing an 8K.

At the finish line, we saw Sarah Beth with her parents. Happy and sad at the same time, she had achieved a personal best and yet there had been no one there to witness it. Since no one knew what a little speedster she had become, we misjudged her estimated time of completion. We all hated that, and I hope that she doesn’t let our poor judgment detract from her accomplishment.

Although they don’t know it, Elizabeth and Sarah Beth provided examples of some important life lessons:  belief in oneself, going the distance, and doing what’s required whether there’s anyone there to take note of it or not. Sometimes those private, inner victories can be sweet.

And here’s another lesson from Elizabeth. Along the course, a little girl ran up to her and gave her a tiny lavender flower. It was one of those unexpected treats that made the journey a little more enjoyable. Lavender flowers are everywhere. We just have to look for them.

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