Since the dawn of time being last was the worst thing that could happen. The runt of the litter usually did not survive. The last place runner never got a gold medal. Recently I had an experience that proved that wrong. At the start of every summer practice my cheer team and I do a timed run. If not all 55 members of the Varsity, JV and Sophomore squads make time, we run an extra lap. This summer we have had 18 summer practices and until the sixteenth practice we ran an extra lap every time.
Then on the early morning of our sixteenth practice something changed. Out of 55 of us there are 5 seniors. That morning, we as seniors decided that instead of running ahead of the group, making time, and then just waiting for the stragglers to roll past the finish line late, we would head up the back of the pack. We all lined up at the starting line, our hearts thumping in anticipation, waiting for our coach to give us the go ahead and then we ran. As we started slowly around the track is was clear who would need our help. Girls started falling behind little by little until we really were last. Immediately the four seniors and I started running alongside the ones struggling. Encouraging words started flowing and the run got harder. The longer we ran the more those few needed us. We could see in their eyes the difference it made to have someone beside them as they struggled. As we rounded the last corner, all of us grouped together and sprinted until we reached the finish. Our ears filled with shouts of motivation and support. We ran with arms outstretched literally pushing those girls forward. When we crossed that line we were met with cheers from the other team members and from our three coaches. We finished 5 seconds faster than we ever had before.
Little did we know we had another person watching all of this unfold. A sweet lady had been running around the track while this all took place. She took notice of us. As we finished our run and began stretching our coach told us how this woman ran past with tears on her cheeks, clapping. This experience touched her in ways we weren’t even aware of.
This experience was so significant to me because of her reaction and because of the way it felt. In a world that is constantly pushing young people to only think about themselves this selfless act was nearly out of place. At this time in our lives the focus is almost always inward. We start having our first jobs and our own cars. We dress ourselves, study on our own and do things that we enjoy. That morning the five us walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. And it felt good.
As the school year starts remember this story. Remember the way it touched not only our team members but someone who just happened to notice. You have a Heavenly Father who will always take notice. Take a moment to stand at the back of the pack and see who you could lift. Hold the door for everyone else and walk in last. Look back and see who needs you. Spend an extra second walking beside someone who cant quite seem to keep up and I promise the sun will shine a bit brighter that day. Take a moment to be last and to make moments that will last. There is no trophy for last place but focus on other will feel better than winning ever has. As Thomas S. Monson said, “Reach outward and press forward”.
How will you reach outward this year?