A few weeks ago we held our inter-house athletics meeting. What I love about the event is the little conversations between the little people competing. Somewhere between the flood of hormones and the drudgery of homework, children lose their invincible optimism and become teens. It is the greatest tragedy of the growing process. Two examples will illustrate this:

Two little grade 1 boys were lined up at the third exchange of the 4 x 60m relay for boys under 7. The one was a natural athlete, who comes from a family of natural athletes. He had come first in the 60m and 80m races earlier that day, and his team were far ahead on the points table. The other little boys was just as genetically disposed to losing as the other was to winning. He was thin, with knock-knees and a silly grin on his face. As I walked by, both boys were adamantly proclaiming, with equal noise and conviction, that they would win the race by at least a minute. The previous losses of the day meant nothing to our knock-kneed little champion – in his own mind, he was a guarenteed winner.

Another boy, on the verge of adolescence, had always been one of those fat boys who run the last twenty of the 100m backwards, waving to the crowds, doing their bit to make up for the entertainment their athletic abilities could not give to the paying public. This last year however, he had lost a lot of that puppy fat. In spite of the encroaching teenage angst, encouraging him to jokingly proclaim himself guarenteed last place, I saw in his eyes, a faint glimmer of that childhood optimism. He knew something had changed. He ran that race – the 150m for boys under 12 – in record time, with teeth gritted and every muscle straining. At the finish line he feigned shock at his win, but his little smile gave him away – he always knew he was a winner.

Sometimes I think we should all revert somehow to that simple faith in the stuff God put into us. We should go into every battle, expecting to win, and never be phased by such trivial things as previous failure. Don’t you wish you could be like that?

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