I saw you over there from my seat on the back row.
We stuck it out, you and I. Two tedious hours of an elementary school awards ceremony to acknowledge all the hard work throughout the year.
Two hours of a seemingly endless list of names called out, a few over and over and over again.
I saw you clapping for each and every one of those names. Even when the same name was called out for the 17th time. I saw you smiling congratulations to the parents tripping over themselves to get the good photo spot in the aisle.
I noticed your smile grew a bit tight as the long minutes passed. I’m sure mine looked exactly the same as we waited, you and I.
The number of awarded kids grew and grew while we waited and waited for our kids to have their names called.
We knew going in that our kids probably weren’t the top grade earners in their classes. We knew they weren’t the captains of any sports teams. But surely there would be something. Some reason to hear their names called and to feel a bit of pride to be ending well. Something.
I saw you look over to where your child was using empty hands to cheer on classmates collecting handfuls of awards. I saw you quickly wipe away that tear. My heart hurt with you.
We’re stuck in this gray area, you and I. There’s a tug of war between the two sides. One says, “Give every child a prize.” The other says, “The world is a tough place that makes us earn it and so should they.”
We’re torn. We understand both sides. We’re the ones in the middle.
The children who won all those awards should absolutely be celebrated and acknowledged. They worked hard. Their parents should be so proud.
But we should be proud, too.
While our children might have come home empty-handed, feeling embarrassed and left out, we still have so many reasons to celebrate.
Because there are plenty of achievements that don’t come with certificates.
He always showed up, even when it was hard.
She often shared lunch with a friend who had none.
He could be counted on to encourage classmates who were sad.
She worked harder on that project than she has ever before worked on anything else.
He invited the whole class to his party, even that one kid no one likes.
She is that one kid no one likes and yet she didn’t give up.
Make sure they know that what they accomplished this year is worthy of celebration.
Because the world is tough. It wears on our souls.
And this tough world sure could use a few more people who are compassionate, kind, and determined to make it a better place.