Swim your own race

For some reason this week an old story came back to mind – and I think it is worth telling.

Many years ago the Special Olympics came to South Bend and I decided to be a spectator.  I headed over to the Notre Dame campus and took a seat in Rolf’s to watch some of the swimming events.  And I watched one that I will never forget.  Eight participants took their places on the edge of the pool awaiting the starter’s gun.  In an instant they were all in the pool – swimming their four-lap race.  And it was a close race – at least for seven of the participants.

But there was one young man who was not keeping up, falling way off the pace.  At first the attention of the spectators was on the other seven – and everyone cheered when the race came to an end.  But then everyone realized that there was one more swimmer in the pool – and everyone started to rally behind him.

“Go!  Go!  Go!”  The crowd came to their feet – me among them – to cheer on the lone swimmer who was more than a full pool length behind.  But he kept swimming and the crowd kept screaming until finally he touched and finished the race.  He climbed out of the pool to be greeted by the raucous cheer of the crowd, then he stood on the deck of the pool and pumped his arms in triumph.  It  didn’t matter that he had finished long behind the other competitors.  It didn’t matter that he took home last place.  What mattered was that he had finished his race.

I learned a good lesson that day, though I forget it all too often.  I forget that life isn’t a competition between me and anyone else.  It’s not about me comparing myself to someone else to make sure that I’m good enough.  Nope, the challenge of life is to measure myself against my potential – and to make sure that I’m measuring up to the plan that God has in mind for me.

The challenge of life – is to swim my own race.  Even if everyone else seems to be outdistancing me.  Even if the attention of the crowd is focused elsewhere.  Even if my efforts don’t seem to be worthwhile.  Even if I’m not making the progress that I’d like to be making.  I just need to keep swimming, swimming my own race.

And that’s what I would say to you.  Swim your own race!


2 Responses

  1. Glad to see you writing again, Brent. I always really enjoy reading what you have to write. Thanks for yet another great application of a moving illustration.

  2. You’re right that this is a lesson we forget far too often. And it doesn’t just apply when we’re behind, but also when we’re ahead. Sometimes it’s even harder to remember then.

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