Thinking about Olympic competitions naturally leads me to thinking about my school days when I enjoyed competing in track and field. I'm not really competitive against other people, but I do like to compete against myself to increase my personal best.
Every year in grade school I received a first or second place ribbon in the fifty-yard dash. And I remember years later returning to my elementary school to play in a summer softball league there, and noticing in the gym that my 7.6 seconds still stood as the record for girls 50-yard dash. That was a thrill.
However, I am embarrassed at how quickly I gave up when I was challenged.
When I entered junior high, our school system in Denver started an integration program, in which students of various races were bused to schools outside their neighborhood to ensure a mix at each school. Most of my white friends did not have any interest in gym class. So out of about forty girls in my seventh grade gym class, there were only two white girls: me, and my friend Sue; all the others were African-American. And were those girls ever talented athletically!
Almost every one of them, whatever shape or size, could run the fifty-yard dash faster than I could. When I tried to run hurdles, I lost my balance, crashed and burned, and went inside the school to clean up my bloody nose and knee. Those amazingly talented African-American girls could sail right over the hurdles, as though each was born to be an Olympic athlete.
I had been a big fish in a small pond at Montclair Elementary School. Now here I was, a small fish in a big pond at Hill Junior High. Looking back, I wish I had connected with these talented athletes and asked for their help or tips. But not only were our newly mingling races uncomfortable outside our own group of friends, I was also quite shy.
My main obstacle, however, was that I was so intimidated by the competition, I didn't even try out for the track team. I have never forgotten that.
Now, when I start to feel challenged and overwhelmed by competition, I remember the mistake that I made when I was young. Instead of quitting, I work harder and try to connect with my competitors.
Writing is one of my most challenging endeavors, and I still become intimidated by authors whose works are chosen over mine for publication. Also, when I see that someone has published a book with a very similar topic or plot to what I've written, I become discouraged and consider bowing out of the competition.
But more and more, I am able to remember that just because someone else has already published a project similar to mine, that doesn't mean that my creation isn't also valuable in its unique way.
Recently a writing friend of mine was trying to convince me to self-publish my book of children's math adventure stories. I explained to her that I had put that project on a back burner because I found several on the internet that were similar. In fact, one particular book was almost identical to mine, but done much better. She said to me, "You know how you find a favorite author and you read everything they've written? Aren't you glad when you discover that there is another author that has written similar books?" Yes, I am! That made sense to me, and inspires me to keep at it.
So my great admiration goes out to those Olympic track and field competitors, who didn't let super-talented athletes intimidate them and keep them from reaching for their dream.
In the same way I have great admiration and respect for all the writers--including myself!--who don't become discouraged by all the incredibly gifted authors that surround us. May we all continue to support each other, write what's in our hearts, and get it "out there" where it can make a positive difference in someone's life.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV
Flickr "100 Meter dash - Jaqueline Rose" by SD Dirk
YouTube "Girls 100M Dash Finals (2A), WIAA State Championship 2012" by Henry Fan