Much attention was focused on the general election last week, but to me, a more important headline involved a race of a different kind.
Two cross country runners at the state meet Kailee Kiminski, an Esko High School senior; and Tierney Winter, a Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School junior were about 50 meters from the finish line at St. Olaf College Nov. 1 when they stopped to help a fellow competitor, Jessica Christoffer, a freshman from Jackson County Central, who had stumbled to her knees.
Winter stopped, helped Christoffer up, and offered encouragement as she helped her toward the finish line.
“It was just an opportunity to help someone,” Winter said later.
Kiminski, noticing her fellow competitors struggling to complete the race, stopped to help, and the three girls crossed the finish line together.
All three of them were disqualified, because the rules don’t allow runners to interfere with or help another runner.
Winter and Kiminski did not win the race that day, but they are most certainly winners.
At a time when so many adults are caught up in negative campaigning and attacking anyone whose beliefs are different than their own, these students provided a shining example of what is really important.
Instead of putting themselves first, and winning at any cost, they stopped to help another person who was struggling, because, in Kiminski’s words, “It’s much bigger than just a race. It’s more important to help people.”
I don’t know much about cross country running. On the rare occasions when I run, a calendar would be a more appropriate timing device than a stopwatch; but it seems clear these runners made personal sacrifices when they stopped to help the other girl.
Many adults could learn a lot from these young women.
In the years ahead, few will remember who won a particular race or game, but people might well remember seeing the kind of selfless example of kindness toward a fellow competitor Kiminski and Winter provided.
It seems partisan politics has replaced leadership these days.
Too often, winning, no matter what it costs, has replaced sportsmanship. Personal agendas and special interests have trumped working together for the common good.
Last week’s election, and those in recent years, are perfect examples of this.
Instead of coming together in a spirit of compromise after the election is over, some people choose to attack not only candidates who they did not support, but anyone who voted differently than they did.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to blame politicians for partisan gridlock and failure to accomplish anything when so many citizens engage in the same kind of behavior.
We see the same thing in business.
Profits are valued above the people who help the companies succeed in the first place.
Instead of sharing the wealth with their employees, some companies cast the veterans aside and replace them with less-expensive workers, or outsource the jobs to other countries.
Ethical behavior is replaced with the pursuit of profits.
Sadly, it may be that the reason the kindness of the student runners stands out is because that kind of concern for fellow human beings is becoming less common.
The young women did not hesitate. They saw an opportunity to help someone and they took it, despite the negative consequences they faced as a result.
What a refreshing example they set for all of us.
In a world in which people will trample other shoppers in a frenzy of greed hours after their Thanksgiving dinner, it is nice to know that there are people out there who go through life looking for opportunities to help others, rather than opportunities to exploit or defeat them.
It also gives one pause for introspection.
I wonder if I, in a similar situation, would have stopped to help a fellow competitor.
To be honest, in a cross country event, I’d probably be the one needing assistance, rather than rendering it.
The question is a serious one, though.
I hope, given the opportunity, that I would step up and help another person the way Winter and Kiminski did in Northfield that day.
I’d like to think I would do the same thing in any similar situation.
I would rather live in a world in which people help each other, rather than one in which people look away, or step over the fallen forms of their fellows.
I haven’t met Winter or Kiminski, but something tells me they will succeed in whatever they choose to do in the future. I am also confident they will make the world a little brighter for the people they encounter along their way.