Chris watched as a man in a Scout uniform carefully placed six cars at the top of the track. “Our car is in lane two,” Chris whispered to his dad. His stomach was aching. He wished they had stayed home.
“Which one is yours?” Sarah, his sister, asked loudly.
Chris pretended to not hear her, not wanting to draw attention to his car.
But Sarah persisted. “Chris, which one is yours?”
“It’s the one in lane two,” Dad answered her. “The yellow one with the red stripe.”
“Oh!” Sarah exclaimed proudly. She turned to her friend, Brandy, and pointed up at the cars. “That’s my brother’s car. The yellow one with the red stripe.”
Chris looked at his dad. “Will you please make her be quiet?” he begged.
Dad smiled understandingly. “Sarah,” he said, “would you and Brandy get us some cupcakes, please?”
Sarah was delighted with the assignment. She and Brandy hurried off to the kitchen.
“Thanks,” Chris muttered.
“Cheer up, Son,” Dad said, putting his arm around Chris’s shoulder. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the Pinewood Derby.”
Chris forced himself to smile. “You’re right, Dad. We can try again next year.”
Dad nodded. “This year is just for practice. We’ll do better next year.”
When everything was set, the crowd cheered and the races began. Chris didn’t want to look, but he couldn’t help himself. He stood up to get a better look as he watched his car win the first race. “We won!” he gasped in disbelief. “Just barely, but we won!”
“I guess the car’s in better shape than I thought,” Dad said.
Sarah and Brandy returned with cupcakes for everyone. “How did your car do, Chris?” Sarah asked.
“It won!” Chris told her happily.
“Really? I thought it was broken.”
“It is,” said Dad. “And the races aren’t over yet. They race the cars six times, once in each lane. Then they average the times. We’ll see how our car holds up.”
The car didn’t hold up very well. It went slower each time it raced. In the last race, Chris’s car crossed the finish line well behind the other cars.
Brother Rogers came over. “I’ve never seen anything like it. What happened? Your car started out great.”
“I’ll show you.” Dad picked up the car and turned it over. The back left wheel was sitting awkwardly on the axle. “Our car had an accident before the race.”
“My little brother, Adam, threw it,” Chris explained. “I wouldn’t let him play with it, so he grabbed it and threw it.”
“It was a pretty good throw, but a pretty bad landing,” Dad added. “It cracked the wheel and bent the axle. I managed to straighten the axle, but there was nothing I could do about the wheel.”
“And where’s Adam now?” Brother Rogers asked.
“My mom stayed home with him,” Chris said. “She said she didn’t think he would enjoy watching the races. I think maybe she was afraid he would ruin someone else’s car.”
Brother Rogers ruffled Chris’s hair. “I have a little brother. They can be a trial sometimes.”
Chris nodded his head. “That’s for sure. But it wasn’t really his fault. All he wanted to do was roll it across the floor like I was doing. If I had let him have a turn, he wouldn’t have thrown it.”
“Think of it as a learning experience,” Brother Rogers said. “Next time you’ll be more patient with him.”
The man in the Scout uniform whistled loudly. “If I could have everyone’s attention, please. We have some trophies and ribbons to award to the winners.”
Chris picked up the cupcake Sarah had brought him. “Well, I guess I’ll eat my cupcake now.”
Sarah smiled. “I’ll go get you another one if you want me to.”
“I’m sorry your car didn’t win,” Sarah said. “Maybe it will get a prize for being the prettiest.”
Chris shook his head.
Brother Rogers announced the names of the boys with the best overall times. Chris watched as each boy shook hands with Brother Rogers and took his prize. Next, there was an award for the best-looking car. Sarah shook her head sadly when Chris didn’t win.
“We have one more prize,” Brother Rogers announced. “We have a prize for the car with the single best time. And the winner is Chris.”
Chris looked up, surprised. “Me?” he asked, fearing he had heard wrong.
“Yes, you,” Brother Rogers laughed. “Your time in the first race was the fastest time all night.”
Chris hurried up to the podium, wiping the cupcake off his hands as he went. He smiled as Brother Rogers handed him the trophy.
Chris hurried to his seat. “Check it out,” he said proudly, holding the trophy out for his dad to see.
“Let me see!” squealed Sarah. As she reached for the trophy, she lost her balance and started to fall.
Chris and Dad both grabbed Sarah and held her steady as the trophy fell to the ground. It landed with a loud crack, and broke into two pieces.
Chris groaned. “Not again.”
Sarah started to cry. “I’m sorry.”
Dad picked up the pieces. “I’m sure we can glue it back together.”
“What happened?” Brother Rogers asked.
“Just another learning experience,” said Chris. He turned to Sarah. “Don’t feel bad. I know it was an accident. Anyway, it makes sense that my broken car should win a broken trophy.”
Sarah smiled through her tears. “You’re not mad?”
“No, I’m not mad. Let’s see if there are any more cupcakes. I think Adam would love it if we took him one.”
“Remember, a good attitude produces good results, a fair attitude fair results, a poor attitude poor results. We each shape our own life, and the shape of it is determined largely by our attitude.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
From an April 1981 general conference address.