Regional schools gathered for the final meet of the season. Parking spots were hard to find that Saturday as we walked to the field.  Along the way passing a car with door open, overhearing a father saying to his son, “I am so proud of you!” My heart warmed to hear a dad speaking this way to his child in that second that we were passing . . .

Parents were teaming the fields, chatting, cheering on their children.  Children nervously gathered with their friends, sensing the pressure and anticipation around them.

The runners lined up, waiting for the half-mile race that was about to occur. The horn blew and the clump of racers launched, then elongated, as runners raced ahead, while others settled into a steady pace.

Spotting my daughter running next to her friend, I watched the mass of children pass by, standing there until the kids were specs on the field.  Moving to the next cheering spot on the final stretch, I waited for them to round the bend.

After a few moments, the array of team colors appeared from behind the trees.  Some runners were in the lead as they raced towards the finish.  Parents clapped and cheered as the kids passed by, some screaming out to their child to push them faster.

One. Two. Three. The runners passed in a flurry as I waited, a little worried, as my daughter usually was not far from the pack . . .

After what seemed like an eternity, she rounded the corner, holding hands with her friend.  As they ran closer I could see this friend was visibly struggling with the race, a pained expression on her face.  I was concerned and alarmed. My daughter’s hand moved to her friend’s back as she stuck with her, talking her through the course, choosing to help her friend instead of placing top in the race . . .

Tears welled up in my eyes as I noticed the compassion and connection that the two girls showed.  Such trust, encouragement, and perseverance demonstrated for those moments in time. My daughter’s friend finished with her, as they stuck together until the end, a victory for both of them . . .

For me as a parent, this was a proud, tender moment that I will never forget. This occurrence  encapsulated for me what my husband and I aspire to teach our children: the importance of being a good friend, being kind, helping others, working hard to be a good citizen.  And there it was, in a flash before my eyes . . .

My daughter’s friend’s mom contacted me later to let me know how much it meant to her daughter and she that the two girls stuck it out together.  I barely had words to reply  (thank goodness for emoji), as the tenderness of the experience, the reaching out, and the impact touched me in a place beyond words . . .

My husband told me later that our daughter mentioned to him that she placed thirtieth in the race, with her friend finishing right before her.  He noted she seemed happy with this, and after he and I shared this story, he understood why.  A proud papa . . .

Today and always, may we support each other along life’s path with kindness and love, remembering that love freely given is never wasted . . .

_____

Note: In the spirit of this post I am including the lyrics and a YouTube link to the song For a Dancer for all of us.  This song is special in that it is a favorite of a dear friend, who now lives far away, who wrote it down on the occasion of my thirtieth birthday.

My friends, family and this song by Jackson Browne, remind me of how much we bring each other along in life.  The lyrics encourage us to remember those things that are truly important . . .

Here is a moving clip to Jackson Browne’s performance at Golden Gate Park in November of 1991, where he performs For a Dancer for an emotional audience . . .

Thank you, my friend, for writing this down for me those years ago . . .

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing, I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

(chorus)
Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
from a seed that someone else had thrown
go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
and somewhere between the time you arrive
and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know