As most of you know, I have been keeping an eye out for HOPE under every nook and cranny for over two years now. Just scoped out a Field of Hope.
Our #1 son began doing hurdles when he was in high school, and at age 44 is still jumping and leaping. Of course, at age 44 he is still a “young’un.” The age range for the annual US Track & Field Tournament is twenty-five to…. A few years ago, we saw a 101-year-old woman run the 100-meter dash in Baton Rouge, LA at LSU. This year the oldest participants were in their nineties.
The annual meet takes place on a university campus willing to open their track and fields. This year we were in Lexington, KY, home of the Wildcats.
So, what is hopeful about a track & field meet? Lots of hope floating and soaring. Here are some slices of hope that spoke to me.
There are about an equal number of women and men; they compete against their own gender. Gender equality across the board.
There is a very good balance between African American and Caucasian athletes with a sprinkle of Asian, Native Americans, and Latinx. Racial balance and equality in competing.
All political leanings are locked in the trunk. Non-political.
Everyone cheers and claps for everyone else. When the athletes are on the track or field, they are competing, and they give their all. But as they come around the finish line and are several lengths ahead of the slower runners, they cheer the slower ones on to the finish line. Everyone is a winner!
I watched a relay of women, and the first team had won handedly, while the fourth team’s third runner was slowly rounding the bend and the fourth runner had yet to start. Yet they persevered and eventually finished with everyone cheering them on, even though they came in quite late. They finished. I so admire the slower team’s perseverance. They do not focus on the fact that they are finishing last. They are focusing on that fact that they are out there, competing and doing their best.
I watched a gentleman in a hurdle relay stumble twice, but he got up and kept going. His team won despite his stumbles. He chose not to quit, and his team won.
There is always the unexpected. Everyone is lined up, in starting form, the start gun pops, and an athlete has a cramp and is unable to run. It happens at least once or twice throughout the meet. They have traveled all that way and end up not competing. Life is a risk.
Among the field events are the discus throw, the long jump, the high jump, the javelin throw, the pole vault. The field events are going on simultaneously with the track events. Energy everywhere!
Then there are the volunteers. Lots of volunteers move the hurdles on, move the hurdles off; smooth the sand for the long jump; adjust the bar for the pole vault; stand out there and measure the discus throw. (That looks a little scary to me. I am not sure how they know how to dodge the discus). These are long days. It begins on a Friday and ends on a Sunday. The volunteers put in many, many hours. The volunteers take joy in being a part of the events. And then, of course, there are the possible rain delays. There were none this particular weekend.
I share all of this because what undergirds all these efforts by the athletes, by the volunteers, by the officials, by the families who come from near and far is a passion and commitment to the joy of running and participating in track & field events.
And a sense of shared community. That is where the hope lies. Everyone cheers for everyone else. The commonality is this shared passion for running, jumping, and throwing. And for one weekend out of the year, people gather; old and young; women and men; people of all faiths and color and political persuasions. All differences put aside as they share their passion and energy with one another. Everyone is a winner. That fills me with hope.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.