Last night, as I watched both our men's and our women's 4x100 relay team drop the baton, I started to wonder about my fascination with the Olympics. Upon further reflection, I believe it ties into my obsession with Mount Everest and ultramarathons and even the cannibalistic rugby team that hiked out of the Andes in the seventies. There is something to be said about enduring and doing something really hard and surviving.
I also love the "Olympic Stories." You know, the ones NBC puts on with inspriational music in the background and childhood pictures. I still tear up at the story of Wilma Rudolph who came out of the 1960 Olympic games in Rome with three gold medals after contracting polio as a child and being told she may never walk again. So there doctors. She not only walked, she ran, and she became the fastest woman in the world.
One of the reasons I love being a college Math teacher is because Math is not an easy subject for most people. So, I get to see people struggle and work and, in many cases, conquer a phobia that they've dealt with ever since they had that pre-Algebra teacher in junior high that spit when he talked and had a bad case of eyebrow dandruff. I do understand that passing College Algebra is not equivalent to doing the 100 meters in 9.69 for most people, but it can leave the same sense of accomplishment and the same high.
In fact, I think we all have those things in life that are set before us to conquer. For most of us, it is not a World Record. Nobody is going to take our picture by a time clock with a flag drapped around our shoulders and declare us a champion. It is more likely that we are just making it through another Monday at work or another ten minutes of carpool time with three boys from the "gifted and talented" school who don't seem to understand the concept of "don't touch each other".
Of course, the Olympics is also a reminder that we are all human and there will be days when we just don't have it in us. Even if we are the favorite, we just might be having a bad day, but our job isn't to always win, it is to finish the race. The most touching part, to me, of watching the Olympics last night was seeing Lauryn Williams drop the baton and then go back, pick it up, and cross the finish line.