“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.”–Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement”–John 7:24
For those who don’t know, I volunteer with an after-school program called Run and Read, run by Start2Finish. Run and Read is a program that builds literacy, encourages healthy activity and eating, and provides children in need with positive role models and mentor–all with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. At the end of every school year, the various schools that host the Run and Read programs come together for the Running and Reading Challenge–consisting of a 5 km race that every child and volunteer runs, a series of games and events to keep kids active, and an event where a team representing each school is challenged on their vocabulary, spelling, and knowledge of books they’ve read through the year. This will be the third time I’ve gone to the Running and Reading Challenge, and it’s always a treat.
Since joining the Run and Read program as a volunteer, I’ve reflected on my own time in elementary school in a variety of ways. What I hope to address here specifically is a lesson I learned in dealing with Developmental Coordination Disorder in phys ed class in the ’90s and which I am constantly reminded of as we grow closer and closer to the 5 km race at the end.
When I was a kid, I was very small and very weak. With all the additional complications in fine and gross motor skill, flexibility, muscle tone, etc. brought on by DCD, phys ed class was an absolute nightmare–especially as a boy who was expected to do well physically through the very fact that I was a boy. The one thing I was able to learn how to do well, though, was running the cross country trail. I was not the fastest or strongest, but I could run, and keep running.
This skill was further developed under the phys ed teacher I had for most of elementary school. Mr. LaPierre was brilliant, and two of the things he emphasized as a teacher were good running habits and gymnastics. Consequently, those were the two areas in phys ed I enjoyed the most. Mr. LaPierre stressed the practical aspects of gymnastics as a way to save lives–the classic example he gave was that if you went over the handlebars of your bike you could, if properly trained, use a hand spring to avoid serious injury and land on your feet. I never actually managed to do the hand spring when going over the handlebars of my bike, but the general idea of getting my hands out to brace my fall probably saved my skull during a fall more than a few times.
As for running, he taught proper pacing, breathing, and mental tricks to keep going. These lessons stuck with me though the years as I used them to run the Terry Fox Run every year in high school, and when I started running in Run and Read.
The most important lesson I learned though was that even though I looked small and weak–and was even weak physically in actuality—I could still demonstrate and draw on my inner strength. Though I couldn’t run fast, I could keep running and by so doing show all the others that I had a determination that none of them could match.
This same determination led me as I grew and matured to bring that same “Give it my all” attitude to many areas of life–reading, school work, dancing, Tai Chi, swimming, professional work, friendships, frisbee games, soccer games–the list goes on. And that ability to throw my entire determination into doing something has earned me respect and admiration of friends and co-workers alike, but more importantly it has made me realize that I am worth something, that I AM strong, truly strong, no matter what other people expect or think of me. And that’s worth passing on to the generations of kids to come.