A young boy who wants to be his new school’s running champion learns the true meaning of honor from his seriously ill grandfather.
The flip side was that his mother was moving to Arizona with a new boyfriend and didn’t want David tagging along, and his dad had been offered a job in an oil rig, so he couldn’t take him either. They ended up sending him to his grandfather, Roy, in Georgia.
David wasn’t happy about any of it. He barely knew his grandfather and had only met him two or three times in his entire life, but he had come across as a very quiet man, as unlike his outgoing temperamental mom as chalk and cheese.
Still, here he was, on the bus, on his way to some hick town in Georgia to live with some old man. David hoped that the town had a decent high school, with a decent track team.
If there was one thing David was good at, it was running, and he supposed some would say it was because when he ran, all his problems fell behind, and all he knew was the feel of the wind and the bellows of his lungs pumping power to his legs.
Before he knew it, the bus was stopping, and there the old man was, with a straw hat in one hand, and the other raised to wave at him as if he was some little kid!
“David!” his grandfather cried. “Welcome home, my boy!” And he threw a surprisingly strong arm around David’s shoulders. “Where’s your gear?” he asked. “Let’s get you home and settled!”
David was sent to live with his grandfather after his parents’ divorce | Source: Unsplash
As it turned out, his grandfather had already handed in his transcripts at the local high school, and he was set to start the next Monday. “I took two days off work. I wanted to give you a day or two to get used to the town, and to me!” his grandfather said, smiling.
David just shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever!” he mumbled and dragged his suitcase up to the bedroom his grandfather had told him had been his mother’s and was now his.
That evening, his grandfather tried to bond with him over some pretty good lasagna and kept asking him what he liked to do, what his interests were.
“I run,” David said. “That’s what I do, that’s what I like. I was the fastest in my school district in California, I’m going to be the fastest here.”
His grandfather grinned. “Well, boy, you might have some pretty tough competition! The team has been sending representatives to the State Championship every year.”
David’s grandfather took him fishing | Source: Pexels
“I’ll eat them,” said David coldly. “Winning is what I do.”
“David,” his grandfather said softly, “it’s not only about winning you know, but it’s also about how you run the race, it’s about honor and respect between comrades…”
“Right…” David said with a faint sneer on his lips. “You know so much about winning… Is that why you live in this hick town in the middle of nowhere?”
“I do know,” grandfather Roy said quietly. “I served my country, and maybe it wasn’t a war anyone could win, but we had our honor, we had each other — and nothing matters more.”
David shrugged, got up, and went upstairs. All he wanted now was to get some sleep. He walked into the bathroom to brush his teeth and saw on a glass shelf a series of medication flasks, some of them with complicated names.
David realized his grandfather was very ill | Source: Unsplash
The next morning he asked his grandfather, “So you sick, or something?”
His grandfather mimicked David’s shrug. “Or something…Nothing for you to worry about, son. I just need my heart meds.”
“So isn’t there like an operation or something?” asked David.
“Boy, there is, but I can’t afford it, and the insurance I have doesn’t cover it,” grandfather Roy explained. David nodded. He knew how that worked. A lot of people he knew back in California were always complaining about insurance.
The next three days he spent traveling around the county with his grandfather, going fishing, and seeing some of the local landmarks. He had to admit the old man was pretty cool.
David discovered he quite liked the high school | Source: Unsplash
Once or twice, David saw his grandfather pause, grimace, and pop a tiny white pill under his tongue, while his forehead beaded with sweat. He always waved off David’s concern with a grin. “I’m OK! Just the ticker complaining!” he’d say.
Too soon, Monday came and David was off to the new school. It wasn’t so bad. The kids were friendly and the teachers were not too terrible. That afternoon, David approached the track team coach and asked him if he could try out.
“Sure,” Coach Phillips said. “The boys are training, so why don’t you warm up, and I’ll let you try out against Randy?” David looked over at the boy the coach pointed out and smiled.
So that was Randy…Get ready to eat my dust, Randy, thought David as he started his warm-up exercises — but he was in for a huge surprise. If David was fast, Randy was faster, and try as he might, David couldn’t overtake him.
“Not bad,” said Coach Phillips clicking his stopwatch. “But you gonna have to find a few more seconds to beat Randy here. As for you Randy, you’ve got David here nipping at your heels!”
David’s dream was to become a track champion | Source: Pexels
Over the next three months, David trained night and day. He had to beat Randy, he had to be the best, he had to win! What was he if he wasn’t a winner? A loser, that’s what!
So David started getting up at 5:00 am to train, and he ran his best time ever, but Randy ran faster. The biggest meet of the year was days away, and David was determined that he was finally going to cross that finish line first.
On the day of the big meet, grandfather Roy was there in the bleachers to cheer him on along with hundreds of yelling parents, students, and teachers. Before they left, Roy had placed a gentle hand on David’s shoulder.
“David, remember we run for honor, not glory. Remember that!” he said.
David shrugged his hand off. “I’m going to win, OK?” he said angrily.
He was still angry as he lined up on the track, right next to Randy. The other eight boys were nothing, David knew it was Randy he had to beat!
Try as he might, David couldn’t beat Randy | Source: Unsplash
The shot was fired and they were off. David felt every breath burn, every slap of his feet on the ground as he pumped his arms, and saw Randy’s figure draw further and further ahead of him. How does he do that? David asked himself angrily.
Then just as the finish line was in sight, Randy stumbled, his knee twisted under him and he hit the ground with a cry. David sped up and ran past him, exhilaration filling his throat, ready for the victory yell.
But then he stopped. Three meters from the finish line he stopped and turned back. He jogged back to Randy and hauled him onto his feet. “Come on, man, we have to finish this!”
With the other runners closing in on them fast, Randy and David crossed the finish line with seconds to spare. David set Randy down gently and a wild wave of applause broke over the two boys.
For a moment David thought he was going to win that race | Source: Unsplash
“Da-VID! Da-VID!” they were all yelling his name! David looked around astounded. Then saw Randy hobbling over leaning on the coach’s arm. “You could have won!” Randy said. “You could have beat me!”
David shook his head. “I could have won, but it wouldn’t have been a victory. I want to beat you fair and square, with honor!”
Suddenly David was surrounded by people, congratulating him and hugging him like he was a hero. Then a warm hand was on his shoulder, and his grandfather was saying, “I’m proud of you boy, I’m proud!”
David was feeling dizzy from all the attention when a pretty blond woman with a microphone approached him.
“David, this is KLTR Georgia, and I have to tell you what you did was amazing, inspiring! You gave up a win to help your friend cross that line, that was incredible!”
David was interviewed on the local TV | Source: Unsplash
David shook his head. “No, you see, it wouldn’t have been a win at all. My grandfather,” David pointed Roy out in the crowd, “My grandfather taught me that there is no victory without honor, and he should know because he’s a hero, a veteran.”
The blood woman was smiling. “So the grandson of a hero becomes a hero?”
“I’m no hero,” David said, shaking his head, “He is. He still works, you know, and he has a bad heart and no money for surgery…”
The interview ended up running on the primetime news, and something amazing happened. The TV station set up a GoFundMe page and quickly raised the money for David’s grandfather’s surgery. As for Randy, he healed quickly, and he and David became best friends and trained together.
David’s granddad had his heart operation | Source: Pexels
What can we learn from this story?
- Winning at any cost is not what sports are all about. David thought being a champion was the only thing that made him special but he was wrong.
- An honorable act is always rewarded. David never imagined that his helping Randy would get his grandfather the surgery he needed.
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