Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Competition for First Place

A column by a teacher emeritus tells the readers of the Peace Weekly of an e-mail he received about an elementary school child who had a health problem that prevented him from growing. He was a well adjusted, happy child, who got along with his classmates but short of stature.

At an autumn field day at the school, the child was in a race with his classmates. The older sister of the child and family seeing the child run brought tears to their eyes, but shortly this was the case for all who were in attendance for just before the end of the race the one who was in the lead stopped, and all the others as they came to the finish waited for the lagger, and all crossed the finish line together.

All made first place together. This is not the adult world in which we live. The columnist reviews his own life and realizes that more than considering the feelings of his children; he wanted them to be # 1. As a teacher, he was always interested in having his students number one. Not only in studies but in comparison to the other homerooms in cleanliness, singing  or whatever, nothing was better than number one.

There are many other things one can be proud of besides being number one. He has made the transition. Those that have made it to first place, hopefully will realize that they  have the privilege to be of service to others.

Each has special gifts, and these should be developed but society has a different set of values that it selects to prize and reward. We don't realize the harm this does to many who like the child, was not gifted as a runner.

We have in the Scriptures two disciples who wanted a better position within the group. When the others heard of this, they weren't pleased. Here we have a case even with those who were closest to Jesus for the first places. This did not help to develop harmony within the first community of disciples. Our Lord's words are very clear: Any one who wants to be first among you must be the slave to all (Mk 10: 44).

Competition is a part of life, and we will not see it disappear, but we can make it less harmful for the many who are not in the running. Even those who are in the running: the person who comes in second feels the loss of not being first more so than the  person who comes in third.

Society for many different reasons makes those who are first in many different fields the object of adulation. We even have it within the Church with the making of saints, but it goes without need of explanation, that these persons considered the first place of little value, and in the degree they felt so, were closer to God.

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