And the Winner Is …

by Bruce DeHaan

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    … the one who won’t give up—the one who runs with legs and heart and determination.

    The doctor said surgery was the only answer. Brenda’s legs were so crooked she would stumble and trip over her own feet.

    He cut through both leg bones just above the knees, turning each one a quarter turn outward, pinning the bones together. Brenda was in a body cast from her stomach to her toes with a brace separating her feet. She was confined to bed.

    Brenda endured the pain and inconvenience for three long, hot summer months. Everywhere the family went, Brenda went in the portable hospital bed in the back of the pickup truck. The graffiti her friends had so plainly written on the cast was worn and blurry by the time it was ready to cut away the plaster.

    Brenda progressed to a wheelchair, then crutches, and then like a one-year-old child she had to learn to walk all over again. After months of therapy, hot pools, and determination, Brenda was walking again. That was six years ago, and Brenda now walks and runs like a normal person. Only the scars give evidence of the surgery.

    Today at Sugarhouse Park, I watched Brenda start the cross-country race for high school girls. She had made her high school track team just three weeks earlier. After the start, I hurried up to the high school track where the race would finish. After what seemed an eternity, the first girl entered the track, and then shortly behind her dozens of other racers from all over the state headed for the finish line. It seemed like everyone had finished, but there was no sign of Brenda. Had her legs given out? Had she fallen because of cramps? Did she just not make it?

    People started leaving the bleachers, and still no sign of Brenda. Then in the distance, slowly running against the crowds of people leaving the stadium, appeared Brenda. She looked exhausted. Would she finish?

    I ran to the finish line, hoping she would make it. As she crossed the line, a look of disappointment showed on her face. As I took her in my arms, she cried out, “Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t do better.”

    As the tears rolled down our cheeks, I told her I couldn’t have been prouder. “Six years ago you couldn’t even walk, and today you finished a three-mile race.”

    It’s not only the one who comes in first who is a winner, but it’s also the one who won’t give up—the one who runs with legs and heart and determination.

    Photography by John Luke