The Race

By Victoria Vanstone

Today, for a moment, I was proud.  

My daughter told me she was nervous about going to a party. 

“Why are you nervous sweetie?” 

“I think they’re going to beat each other at the party Mum.” 

“BEAT EACH OTHER??” 

I was worried for a second until I realised she didn’t mean that kind of beating. 

“Oh, you mean they are going to have running races?” 

“Yes.” 

“Don’t worry,” I said, “It’s not winning that’s important, it’s the taking part.” 

“No,” she said, “I’m not worried about winning or not. I just don’t want to make new friends and then race them. If I win or if I lose, they might not want to be friends anymore.” 

As her words sunk in, I realised what a lovely, smart little girl I have.  

And what a brilliant viewpoint.  

Her choice, before the party had even begun, was to avoid any competition to keep the status quo. She wanted to make sure her and her friends stayed on equal terms. 

“Well done,” I said, “You don’t have to race if you don’t want to.” 

“Ok, I won’t,” she said, “Can I have an ice cream now?” 

Her choice, before the party had even begun, was to avoid any competition to keep the status quo. She wanted to make sure her and her friends stayed on equal terms. 

As we walked towards the shops, my heart filled with joy. I felt such pride. So much so, that I let her have two scoops of rainbow flavour in a chocolate cone with double sprinkles. 

“The race”… her brilliant philosophy got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived like that? A life with no competitors, a community without expectation or judgement. A world where we learned to slow down and help each other to the finish line. 

Her little anecdote reminded me of a situation recently when I judged and put someone on unequal terms for no real reason. 

I was standing on a curb outside the supermarket waiting for my husband to come and pick me up. It had started to rain. I must have looked like a half-drowned Afghan hound with my hair all stuck to my face and overflowing shopping bags at my feet. 

Just as an orange rolled out of a bag, a beautiful woman with olive skin and long legs stepped out of a car that had pulled into the space in front of me. She pulled a hood over her head and hurried around the side of the car to let her two kids out. 

“Come on darling. Mummy’s got to pick up Atticus from the dog groomer then go to Pilates afterwards. Let’s get a move on.” 

One child shuffled along the leather seats and she undid the seatbelt of a baby that was in a little capsule. She then pulled out a (non-banana stained) pram from the boot and a plastic giraffe toy fell to the ground at my feet. I picked it up and held it in my hands looking into its horrifying googly eyes. The woman hadn’t seen it fall from the car and at first, I didn’t hand it back.  

A world where we learned to slow down and help each other to the finish line.

I just stood in the rain staring. 

From the moment the woman had stepped out of her vehicle, I had judged everything. I was judging her voice, her clothes, her pram, her car. I was even judging the quality of the toy that had landed at my feet.  

I didn’t know the woman; I had never seen her before.  

She seemed organised, healthy, like she might own a horse and play tennis. She probably had a husband that was a lawyer and had holidays in posh hotels where cleaners left mints on your pillow and ate in fine restaurants where waiters placed a napkin in your lap. 

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