As I watched the many different events in the 2014 Winter Olympics, I thought of the words appearing in Walker’s mission and promise statement – the importance of valuing the experience over the applause. Many of the skaters, skiers, hockey players, and curlers went to the competitions hoping to medal, but realistically knew their chances were slim-to-none. No one expected the Jamaican bobsled to be on the medal stand (the applause), but many of us enjoyed the story of how hard they worked just to be able compete in the Olympics (the experience) and how the last minute generosity of many allowed them to be there. I feel somewhere over time we shifted from encouraging participation and recognizing there were winners and losers to encouraging participation and everyone receiving a trophy.
I frequently hear students make comments about not wanting to take a challenging class because a higher grade could be earned in one less demanding, not wanting to audition for a play because of not being able to have a major role, or not wanting to play a sport unless being guaranteed a starting spot or major playing time. I hope we have not reached a point where many of our young people miss the joy of competing; learning how to do your best is healthy and not walking away with a medal is not losing. During the Games, we witnessed athletes achieve a PR or a PB. These athletes were not in medal contention, but instead, they were competing against the clock, a previous score, or themselves…and in that competition they won!
While channel surfing in the evenings, my wife and I sometimes tune in to HGTV’s “House Hunters.” I often think about the number of young couples looking for their dream first home with cavernous bathrooms, granite counter tops in a chef-styled kitchen, and a “man cave.” I do want each couple to have that dream home some day, but I wonder if they are missing out on the experience of having cinder blocks with 1×6 boards as shelves or gathering with friends one night and pooling leftovers because the next paycheck is several days away.
Many of the memories we tend to value in later years are of times when we did not have everything we wanted or had to put off getting what we wanted. Some of the greatest gifts are not when we receive the medal, award, or trophy, but when we choose to show up and value the experience over the applause.