I wanted to win. Since sports were not my strong suit, this race was as important to me as anything I could think of. Just one lap around the make-do track at our elementary school, with the legs moving fast enough and the energy holding out, and I could win.
“Run faster!” I could hear the cheering section, blurred as it was in my mind, as I rounded the curve. “Faster!” As we neared the final stretch, all of us kids who had chosen to run this event for our May Day celebration at school were giving it our all. Mine was not good enough to win the race. I have no recollection of how many came in ahead of me, or how many finished after me. I do remember sprawling under a big sycamore tree, panting and heaving breaths and wanting water to drink. Vaguely, I remember feeling as though I had not measured up.
When my Mom’s arm went around my shoulder, hugging me close, she gave me a better perspective. Just a short time ago, I had been in the hospital, unable to do much of anything. To run at all, to have the chance to be part of the race, was a victory. She quoted a scripture from Ephesians – something about there being a season for everything – and my 9 year old heart somehow began to comprehend. After all, she reminded me, I had finished the race!
“Pay attention to the effort you made and celebrate your own personal victory,” she suggested. We finished off our celebration of May Day with an ice cream from the local drug store as she taught me a little bit about the blessing of participating in the race, with joy for what I did accomplish instead of regret for what I did not.
Through the years, I have experienced times when a similar tug at my mind and heart would cause feelings of inadequacy. That “Why could I not run a little bit faster?” reaction has caused a ripple effect within, and I have questioned ability or competence.
This is, of course, a less-than-favorable way of thinking. Largely because it does nothing to celebrate whatever progress was made or service was rendered. But also because it fails to acknowledge the importance of pacing in our efforts to set and meet goals. It lacks the celebratory nature of acknowledging participation in progress!
Young women begin a fantastic journey in personal progress as they work on their Young Women’s medallion, and concentrate on the values so often repeated when they are gathered together. The joy is that personal progress is not merely a program for young women. It is a way of life for every single woman, with a desire is to move forward.
If you are not currently involved, ask for a booklet and begin. Anything you do will be of help to you now and in years to come.
You are a member of another faith? Let me know and I will make sure you get a booklet! Just send me an email, and include your address. I will send one your way.
If you are advanced beyond the age of “Young Women” (12 to 18), any ward leader would be happy to obtain a booklet for you. The whole idea is to help in setting and meeting goals that are do-able for each one of us, in our own way.
I have found my mom’s advice to find joy in our own personal victories to be helpful throughout my life. Simply putting forth some effort in such a worthwhile program as this one brings quiet joy and satisfaction. You may not get a medallion or be publically acknowledged, but you will feel better for the effort made!
Any kind of program, booklet, written goal, or event participation is a good thing, if we celebrate our own personal victory instead of comparing ourselves to “the other guy”. There is more gratitude to be found for our Father in heaven, who allows us to keep taking forward steps. If there is an occasional stumble, He is there to help us up so that we can take the next step. And perhaps, slow down from time to time, so that we can get the most out of our experience.
I love this counsel given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “The scriptural advice, ‘Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength’ suggests paced progress, much as God used seven creative periods in preparing man and this earth. There is a difference, therefore, between being ‘anxiously engaged’ and being overanxious and thus under-engaged.” (Ensign, November 1976, pp. 10-11.)
We are coming up on a new year, when many choose to make resolutions or to set lofty goals. Good for us! But in the setting and working on them, we would do well to take Elder Maxwell’s advice to heart. Trying to do more than we are able, or shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot because we do not measure up to another person, or even to what we projected for ourselves, can trip us up. Instead of enjoying the efforts, we may feel undue sadness. Our efforts to labor more than we have strength may set us back. There is perhaps simplicity in being anxiously engaged in good works at a pace that works for us.
Little wonder that President Spencer W. Kimball suggested that we “’Be of good cheer’ (D&C 78:18), for the Lord will, as he has promised, lead us along and show us the way. He will help us as we decide from day to day on the allocation of our time and talent. We will move faster if we hurry less. We will make more real progress if we focus on the fundamentals.” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 83.)
Yes, vaguely I remember that race of my youth, and my mother’s tender care and instruction. Even now, with children and grandchildren of my own, there are times I need to stop, take a deep breath, and be grateful for the chance to participate in this race of life – without worry of when I cross the finish line or who seemingly runs faster or with better form. I do better when I remember the need to cherish the accomplishments made rather than fret over running faster!