I wonder how many band concerts I have sat through as a parent. I have attended them in middle school, high school, summer camps, all-district, all-state, various clinics, halftime shows, band competitions, jazz ensembles, and college concerts, both live and streamed. With the exception of a couple of college football games where I watched the band in the scorching heat, freezing cold, or pouring rain, I have always been seated in an air-conditioned or heated space, not out in the elements.
It always made me feel sorry for the parents who were at soccer and lacrosse games, or tennis matches. Those parents hit all the seasons, sitting on hard, cold bleachers or huddled in field chairs with very few days that were “just right.”
Parents will shift schedules and move mountains to make it to games and events. I was chatting with a friend of mine whose 16-year-old son got involved in racing. He’s not only “involved,“ he’s good! The races happen on Friday nights. She was explaining to me that this past Friday was exceptionally trying. She got caught in some insane traffic which made her run late. She also had her father with her, and he has suffered a stroke so she was dealing with those mobility issues as well.
As she described this I found myself saying a couple of different times, “I would’ve given up by this point.“ And that made me start to think of perseverance and how much or how little of it I have.
Perseverance: persistence, tenacity, determination, resolute, dogged, nonstop, continuing, tireless, assiduous, insistent, unflagging, and many more.
An image popped into my head. What if there was an emergency, and the EMTs who showed up were slightly less than persistent? Three chest compressions and they quit. “We’re out. We’ve done all we can do.”
Author H. Jackson Browne said, “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins - not through strength but by perseverance.“
If you google How was the Grand Canyon formed? The short answer is: the Colorado river carved its way downward. Those are pretty impressive results in a battle between water and rock, in the victory of perseverance.
I think that may be part of my problem. I get excited at the beginning of a new prospect. I start the project or the journey, and then I peter out. I need more discipline, more tenacity. How many things do we miss out on because we don’t follow through?
One of my favorite stories about perseverance is about John Akhwari from Tanzania and how he made sports history. He was an athlete, a runner, in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The marathon was the last event. 75 runners began; 18 quit. Akhwari is one runner everyone thought would pull out. During the race, there was a pile-up. Akhwari took a hard spill seriously injuring his shoulder and knee. After being treated, he continued the race. Finally, limping into the stadium and across the finish line after sunset and long after almost everyone had left. One reporter questioned why he continued, He answered, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish it.“
Sometimes it’s not about winning; sometimes it’s simply about completing the task. When we look for a hero, maybe we shouldn’t look for the winner but rather for the one who never gave up. They may just be the winner after all.