The last day of her fifth-grade year was a day Rose would never forget. She was 11 years old, quiet, and shy. But she loved being with her friends and playing games in which she competed with them.
And that day was a day of outdoor competitions. Rose thought, I can choose to do whatever I want today at the games!
A few teachers had set up games and races for the children. Rose and her two best friends, Tricia and Kelly, decided to help some of the teachers set things up. Rose had a lot of fun helping her own teacher, Mr. Charles, put up signs and get the first-, second-, and third-place ribbons ready for the winners.
Of course, Rose wanted to be one of the winners. In fact, she thought, I sure would like a first-place ribbon to take home!
At last the fun began. Rose, Tricia, and Kelly competed in several games together. Each of them won second- and third-place ribbons.
After a while, Kelly decided she wanted to help the first-grade teacher with the sack race, and Tricia wanted to enter the drawing contest. Rose didn’t know what else she wanted to do, so she decided to walk around.
The peanut race looked like it would be fun. She watched the younger children’s division and saw that it was no ordinary race. She clapped her hands as the winner got to the finish line—it was her happy little neighbor, Andi Marie.
When she signed up for her own division, Rose saw that about nine other girls had entered. She didn’t know any of them very well, but they all seemed to be friends.
The teacher in charge, Mr. Stevens, was one of the favorite teachers in the school. He handed each girl a peanut and a little, flat wooden spoon and explained the rules. “First, place the peanut on the spoon. When I blow the whistle, go as fast as you can toward the finish line, trying not to let the peanut fall off. If it does, stop, pick it up, put it back on your spoon, and continue the race. The first one who crosses the finish line will be the winner. No cheating!”
As Mr. Stevens headed for the finish line, which seemed very far away, Rose saw that many kids had gathered along both sides of the racecourse. Her heart began to pound.
The whistle blew, and off they went! Rose was determined to win, but it was harder than she’d thought it would be. Every few steps the peanut rolled off her spoon. She kept stopping to pick it up, put it back on her spoon, and hurry on. It was fun at first, but then she heard some kids laughing. The laughter got louder and louder. Mr. Stevens was yelling out over the noise, “Come on, keep it up! You can make it!”
When she dared to glance up, she saw that all the other girls had already crossed the finish line. How could they have gotten there so fast? Rose wondered. They were laughing, too—and hooting—at her: “You’re too slow! We all beat you! Ha-ha-ha!”
All eyes were on Rose. The peanut kept rolling off, and she kept picking it up as even the bystanders laughed and made fun.
She was only halfway down the racecourse. Her face flushed bright red with embarrassment, and the next time the peanut rolled off, she stopped, picked it up, and walked off the course. What’s the use of going on? she asked herself. She just wanted to go home or hide someplace.
Feeling a tap on her shoulder, she turned around to see a concerned Mr. Stevens. When he asked why she had walked off, all she could do was shrug. If she had tried to speak, she would have cried.
She never forgot what Mr. Stevens said to her then: “You should have kept going. Even if you had come in last, you would have been the winner. Didn’t you know that all the other girls had their thumbs on the peanuts? They all cheated. You were the only one who was honest. I’m proud of you for that, but you didn’t win the race because you gave up.”
“You gave up” kept ringing in her ears. She didn’t like those words. She felt good about being honest, but she felt bad about giving up. She didn’t believe in being a quitter, but she had quit anyway. If she hadn’t, she would now be a happy winner with a first-place ribbon!