The Participant Ribbon
May 25th, 2014 @ 10:41 am

I only caught part of this video the other day, but enough that I did want to make a comment about its core principle. I am not going to talk about the video itself.

You see, when I was a kid, way back in the late 1980s, my school had a Field Day each year. I loved field day. It meant summer was near and it was an excuse to get out of the class room. Our field day was always held at the affiliated Catholic high school. Mothers would come out and cheer us on.

In first and second grade, I always got 2 ribbons. One was a white third place ribbon and the other was a green participant ribbon. They were jokes to me. Everyone got that green ribbon. The third place ribbon was a way for the volunteer moms could give every one a ribbon for at least the relay race. My class would be broken into teams, usually 4 teams. The first place team got a blue ribbon; second place would get the red ribbon, and all the other teams placed third. And ALL the kids had to run the relay. So yes, I knew that white ribbon was a pity ribbon.

I remember in second grade, I was crying because my sister, Nicki, who was only in first grade, had a red second place ribbon in an event other than relay. I think it was the Potato Race  It sucked knowing you weren’t that great at athletics. My mother consoled me about it, told me I was a winner anyways, and then promptly took us to McDonald’s for the other part of the field day ritual.

The next year, for Field Day, I was not expecting much for ribbons in count.  I knew I was going to get the relay ribbon and the participant ribbon.  This year, I was entered into the Potato Race.  I remember racing my heart out.  I thought I had won second place.  I finally got a ribbon of my own.  When I saw my classmate Melissa get the red ribbon, my heart was broken.  I thought I hadn’t placed.  I felt dejected.  I walked away to cry.  Next thing I know, Vic’s mother came over, asked me my name, and promptly wrote it on a ribbon, and then pinned it to me.  Maybe I had placed third, after all?  A white third place ribbon in something other than relay would be a big deal to me.

I looked down at the ribbon.  It was a blue ribbon.  A BLUE RIBBON! This was better than that red ribbon my sister won the year before.  I also remember my class walking by the bleachers where the parents were sitting to observe.  Next thing I know, I hear my mother clapping and jumping up and down.  She could see I had a blue ribbon on my chest, and she was proud and relieved.  Proud that I earned that ribbon.  Relieved that I wasn’t going to be crying after the end of the day.

As I got older, I cherished only the blue ribbon.  I got the white and green one for merely showing up.  I had to earn that blue one.  So I carried a potato on a spoon across 10 yards.  I did it and I did it before the rest of my classmates.  It was mine!

Yes, the blue ribbon, not the white and green ribbons, taught me about earning things and how earning things are rewarding.  Well that, and all the stuff I earned in school.  In first grade, if were earned the most amount of stars each week, we got a certificate.  Once I learned how to get one, I did everything I can to get one.  I think my mother ran out of wall space in my room at year.  I did the BookIt program because I loved getting free pizza.

Other the years, it has encouraged me. In college, I worked hard in school to keep my grades up.  It kept me on scholarship.  I was able to pay for a majority of my schooling via grants and scholarships.  I got a degree and my parents didn’t have the burden of paying for it.  My parents told me when I was 14 and I toured Fayetteville State University as a part of the National Junior Honor Society field trip that I would have to pay for my college.

And now, at my age, I am going to grad school.  How I am paying for it while paying for a car and a house? Again, the reward system.  My job has a tuition program.  For as long as I’ve been there, my employer will pay for the bulk of my degree, provided the degree is related to my line of work.  As long as I do well at work, I can get this reimbursement if I go well in school.  I have been working my tail off at work, and school.  It’s hard, but it was worth it when I got that A in that class.  However, I know if my work starts suffering, the degree goes on the back burner.  The degree won’t pay for my car and house at the moment.

To loop back to the participant ribbon again.  I know people that took the participant ribbon in their lives.  Those people expect the world to give them everything. They get mad when they don’t get what they think the deserve.  They are miserable.  They don’t appreciate what good they have in there lives.  A lesson in winning, as well as losing, is what field day is about.  It’s not the ribbon in the potato race that matters; it’s the lesson one received in getting the ribbon in the potato race that we all need.


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