Six Block Walk of Shame
I always swear I am not a competitive person. I even go so far as to say that I could win a medal for being the least competitive person. Ever. Which can really only be translated one way. Yes, I am competitive. No, I don’t win very often.
A few weeks ago I saw a flyer at work advertising a new event in town: Dogtoberfest! Along with a dog wash and canine/owner look-alike contest, the event featured a dog walk. Advertised as a race, I rushed home to register.
The “race” started at the local dog park and finished at a bar called the Downward Dog. Six blocks to be exact. Not New York City sized blocks either, but small town Oregon ones — a half miles worth of blocks . . . and only if you don’t walk in a straight line. I giggled a little when I read the course description, fell over when I read they were charging $30 to participate, and totally lost it when I scrolled through the registration page to find they were actually handing out ribbons for the top three finishers.
I signed-up anyhow; joking with my husband that I was sure to bring home the blue.
Any doubts I might have had about winning dispersed the minute I approached the start line on race day. There I was in my light weight Nikes and running shorts, holding a Weimaraner who only knows how to run. Fast. Prepping my eight-year-old (who thought she wanted to come) with race strategies. We were surrounded by grey heads, Birkenstocks, and miniature versions of real dogs. There was a pack of Pugs, a Golden Retriever with Bassette Hound legs, and an asthmatic wiener dog that kept yapping at his own shadow. I worried for a second when three Whippets and a Greyhound showed up. Then I realized their owner had a cane and figured I could probably take him.
I tried to joke with the race directors when I checked in. “I think I can win this one,” I teased. They looked horrified. “Really,” one snarled at me, “this is just a opporutnity for us to appreciate our supporters.” I wish I could show my appreciation by charging everyone $30 to walk on a public sidewalk for five minutes.
I realized quickly that what I thought was hilarious, everybody else took very seriously.
So I put on my game face, pushed my way to the start of the pack, and waited for the gun to fire.
At the sound of go we took off; my daughter, my dog, and I. We ran. Everyone else walked. Within seconds the rest of the hounds vanished. My daughter begged me to slow down. I told her to suck it up and keep going. We finished within minutes. So fast, they weren’t ready with the ribbons, and the guy from the local Newspaper missed the photo-op because he thought he had time to finish his coffee. No one at the finish line cheered, no one really even knew exactly where the finish line was.
It wasn’t until after my dog was washed in a kiddie pool (for an additional $3) that he got his blue ribbon. I then watched as they handed the red ribbon to a little girl: maybe ten-years-old. She looked disappointed. She had hoped for the blue. I felt terrible. If I had known she was there, I would have let her win. I didn’t even notice her at the start line. Too caught up in the moment I guess.
I claim to not be competitive, but I am.
I know that on the field and in the arena someone always has to win. I get that in sports and in business competition makes the world go ’round. But I am learning that in life and in love, a competitive spirit suits no one.
There is this story in the Bible about a guy named Jacob who loved a girl named Rachel. He was tricked into marrying her sister Leah, only to eventually marry Rachel as well. The two sisters shared a husband, and vied for his affections. The contest quickly turned to who could bear the most children. (As a side note, you will never find me in that kind of race.) The war between sisters became so fierce they even fought over mandrakes — a fruit thought to work as an aphrodisiac.
In the middle of telling this story, the author pauses and writes: “God saw that Leah was unloved, and so He gave her children.” Rachel saw her sister as her rival, and missed her pain. Rachel did not have to fight for her husband’s affections. She already had them. She always had. Leah was unloved. God did not give Leah children in the spirit of competition, He loved her when no one else did.
We can compete and antagonize or we can love. We can struggle and clash, or we can see one another’s pain. We can compete, or we can live.
Winning is always nice. But sometimes taking second place, is the only way to truly experience victory.