“Come on, Aury! You can do it!” Yelled the parents waiting at the finish line.
“Push, push, push!” encouraged one mom.
In came three more students, Justin, Javier, Kara.
“Nine minutes, fifteen seconds,” said the teacher keeping time. Sweat pooled beneath lips. Arms pumped forward and back. T-shirts sweat worn circles spoke to the warmth of the late winter sun. One by one ten and eleven year old students crossed the cones marking the one mile finish. For many it was done in under ten minutes. For some it was longer. After ten, eleven minutes, the crowd of runners thinned. A few more children crossed and the runners and parents and teachers began to look down the course laid out for the kids along the spit of beach reaching out to the pier.
“Who’s left?” asked Hailey.
“Just Albert and Erin,” respond several students and one of the parent chaperones.
We can see Albert. He’s still running, albeit more slowly than some of the others before him. But he’s on course.
“Come on Albert” screams the class.
“You can do it!”
“You’re almost there. Keep going!”
Albert picks up his pace, gaining on the finish line.
Then we see her. Erin is way down the beach. She’s walking. We watch. We wait.
One of the girls looks up at me, expectantly. Searching.
“Can I go run in with her, Ms. Wells? You know just to encourage her on?” she asks.
I do not hesitate. “YES! GO!”
She runs down the way toward Erin. And then another four or five students join her and before I know it, the entire class has run back down the course to join Erin on her way to the finish. They begin to cheer. Pumping their fists in the air. They reach Erin and run slow and steady beside her, behind her. Erin’s face lights up. Her pace quickens. And this time, they all cross the finish line together.
In our school, the sweetest little school by the sea, we grow readers. We grow writers. But today I know in my heart that what we really grow is people here. This is what matters. This is what we do.
Go Erin! Yes. You. Can.