16 January 2013

"...run with patience the race..."

It was the quarterly awards ceremony today at the parish school. The nearly six hundred students, from four-year-olds to the high schoolers, gathered in the gymnasium for the ritual of recognizing all those who have set themselves apart from others by what they have accomplished.

There are those who say that this sort of thing should be a relic of the past, that we are damaging self-esteem, that we are discouraging some children who will probably never get an award.

In my dealings with our students on a daily basis, I try to help them understand the importance of doing their best. And sometimes our best is average. That’s why it’s called “average.” It's exactly where lots of people are. There’s no shame in that, and if we can hold our heads up before God and say honestly that we have done our best, then the reward will be a whole lot more than receiving a piece of paper.

But the piece of paper is important for those whose talents and efforts mean they have earned it. There is nothing to be gained by pretending there is no difference amongst people and their achievements. If someone has earned all A’s on his report card, there should be public recognition of that. And those who didn’t make that achievement should be ready to congratulate those who did. There's a legion of lessons in it.

An important quality to have is the ability to accept recognition with humility, acknowledging that the gifts enabling the achievement come from God. To accept the fact that one’s best work might not warrant public acclamation also is a good attitude to develop. There will be a lot of that for most of us in this life. Then there are those who could have done much better, but through laziness or the squandering of time, they came up short. They learn from that, too, as they see people who are perhaps less capable than themselves who are being recognized for what they have done. More than one student told me on their way out, “I’m really going to work harder this quarter.” And I hope they do.

The quarterly awards ceremony is a small thing in the big scheme of things. But I think it teaches some of those “life lessons” children need to learn.