"Ultimate Definition of Success" by Rector Chris Girata
Ultimate Definition of Success was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, August 13, 2021
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
Without a doubt, there are some exceptional stories during the Olympics and Paralympics. Those stories often focus on the sacrifices and commitment of the athletes and their achievements. But occasionally, there is a human moment, a human story that falls short of the exceptionalism that is typically celebrated. Those stories—the ones when people don’t achieve what they’d hoped—are often the ones that fascinate me most.
What mattered most in that moment was the kindness and forgiveness one person showed to another.
For example, recall one of America’s track and field stars, Isaiah Jewett. Jewett is a middle-distance runner, specializing in 800 meters. During his qualifying heat, Jewett was in prime position to finish in the top two. As he rounded the final turn, his foot was hit from behind by Botswana’s Nigel Amos. In an instant, the two men fell to the ground, rolling in a pile, their dreams of competing for an Olympic medal crashing down around them.
Can you even begin to imagine the disappointment that washed over Jewett in that moment? The years of sacrifice and commitment, the hopes, and dreams, all gone in an instant. I wouldn’t have blamed Jewett for responding with extreme anger, but what he did was incredible. Instead of falling apart, Jewett got to his feet before helping Amos to his feet. Amos immediately apologized to Jewett, and Jewett put his arm around him, and they walked, together, across the finish line.
Following the race, Jewett told reporters, “I always have to finish a race. I got Nigel (Amos) up as well. I could see that he was devastated. He apologized to me. I told him, ‘Let’s just finish the race man.’” Amos insisted that Jewett walk across the line before him, and although they finished the race, that was secondary to the show of humanity on display. What mattered most in that moment was the kindness and forgiveness one person showed to another.
Even though the Olympics are truly unique, the pressure for perfection is universal.
Simple moments like that are profoundly countercultural. The Olympics put human achievement on display in extreme ways. To even qualify for the Olympics is extraordinary, but how often do commentators and announcers seem disappointed when a hopeful fails to win gold? Even though the Olympics are truly unique, the pressure for perfection is universal. In our own ways, we all struggle with achievement and perfection, often feeling horrible when we think we have failed. And yet, the moment between Isaiah Jewett and Nigel Amos exemplifies true human achievement.
Character matters. Kindness matters. Love and forgiveness and grace should be the ultimate definition of success in a world that too often pressures us toward competition. We are united in far more than whatever we think divides us. Once again, with rising infection rates and hospitals filled beyond capacity, we are in a phase of our history when we are challenged to stretch ourselves.
We are being challenged to be more generous, more patient, and more compassionate. It would be easy to see these challenges are too inconvenient or too unnecessary. But what if, rather than seeing others as a hindrance or an annoyance, we saw others as a sister or a brother? What if we recognized one another as messy, problematic, and imperfect, just like us? We can transcend our struggles and find unity, and when we do, be the people we were made to be.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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