The Race

The Race

From A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul

The Race

I

“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!”
    They shout at me and plead.
“There’s just too much against you now;
     This time you can’t succeed!”

And as I start to hang my head
    In front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by
     The memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will
     As I recall that scene;
For just the thought of that short race
     Rejuvenates my being.

II

A children’s race—young boys, young men—
     How I remember well.
Excitement, sure! But also fear;
     It wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope
     Each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that,
     At least take second place.

And fathers watched from off the side
    Each cheering for his son.
And each boy hoped to show his dad
     That he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went!
    Young hearts and hopes afire.
To win and be the hero there
     Was each young boy’s desire.

And one boy in particular
     Whose dad was in the crowd
Was running near the lead and thought:
    “My dad will be so proud!”

But as he speeded down the field
     Across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win
     Lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself
     His hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd
     He fell flat on his face.

So down he fell and with him hope
     —He couldn’t win it now—
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished
     To disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up
     And showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said:
    “Get up and win the race!”

He quickly rose, no damage done
     —Behind a bit, that’s all—
And ran with all his mind and might
     To make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself
     —To catch up and to win—
His mind went faster than his legs;
     He slipped and fell again!

He wished then he had quit before
     With only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now;
     I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched
     And found his father’s face;
That steady look which said again:
    “Get up and win the race!”

So he jumped up to try again
    —Ten yards behind the last—
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought,
     “I’ve got to move real fast.”

Exerting everything he had
     He gained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead
     He slipped and fell again!

Defeat! He lied there silently
     —A tear dropped from his eye—
“There’s no sense running anymore:
    Three strikes: I’m out! Why try?”

The will to rise had disappeared;
     All hope had fled away;
So far behind, so error-prone:
    A loser all the way.

“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he
     thought “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad
     Who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low.
    “Get up and take your place;
You were not meant for failure here.
    Get up and win the race.”

“With borrowed will get up,” it said,
     “You haven’t lost at all.
For winning is no more than this:
    To rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to run once more,
     And with a new commit
He resolved that win or lose
    At least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now,
    —The most he’d ever been—
Still he gave it all he had
     And ran as though to win.

Three times he’d fallen, stumbling;
     Three times he rose again:
Too far behind to hope to win
    He still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner
     As he crossed the line first place.
Head high, and proud, and happy;
    No falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster
     Crossed the line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer,
     For finishing the race.

And even though he came in last
     With head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he’d won the race
     To listen to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said,
     “I didn’t do too well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said.
    “You rose each time you fell.”

III

And when things seem dark and hard
     And difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy
     Helps me in my race.

For all of life is like that race.
    With ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win,
     Is rise each time you fall.

“Quit! Give up, you’re beaten!”
    They still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says:
    “GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”

D.H. Groberg

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