Wanting to be Second Place

 

On occasion, Wesley and Gwyneth attend a story time program at the local library.  Last October, the kids made a “fall centerpiece” (a bunch of twigs, sticking out of Playdoh in the centre of a dried up bagel) to enter into the craft competition at the fall fair.

The day of the fair, they raced to find the display table that housed their masterpieces in the arena.  As part of their campaign for self-esteem the “judges” of the handicrafts awarded all the preschoolers a shiny red first place ribbon.

Immediately, Gwyneth was thrilled to see her name in lights.  She posed with a big grin to commemorate the occasion.  Wesley, on the other hand, broke down in tears.  Shocked by his response, we asked him to tell us what was wrong:

“Everyone is number one, I want to be number two!”

Well, what do you say to that (suppressing the urge to inappropriately comment about the “potty humour” in that statement)?

Like the insightful parents we are, we proceeded to snap Wesley’s photo to capture the memory of his first entry in the fall fair.  Not so much a smile as a scowl on his face.

Wesley’s reaction was not what I expected and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this perspective is shocking simply because it is not the norm. In our society, it is very rare, that someone actually wants to be in second place.

I’m sure Wesley didn’t intend his comment to produce some sort of deep spiritual awakening.  In fact, I still have no idea why the red ribbon upset him so much.  But his response was, in a way, counter-cultural.  In a world that seems to praise those at the top of the heap, it rarely celebrates those who choose an inferior position.

Whether it was because he wanted to be different or because he legitimately was happier with the number two, I may never know.  But I think that I’d like to be content with second place if it means that I am willing to give up the limelight for someone else.  If it means that I am willing to celebrate another person’s success.  If it means that I have a servant’s heart.

I might even need to give up my first place ribbons in order to accomplish more meaningful things in this world.

I have a vague recollection of some guy talking about how the last will be first.

Maybe He was onto something.

(Originally posted in 2009)

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