“But I tried really hard …” I heard my grandson Jack say as crocodile tears streamed down his face. He had just finished his last ice skating lesson and he was leaving the arena without the cherished badge. While we shared how proud we were of his newly acquired ability to skate, there was no comforting him.

He simply stared at the evaluation page that listed the two remaining ice skating skills required before completion of the basic level. He didn’t achieve the basic level of skating; therefore, he did not earn a badge. My heart broke as I watched him cry.

Why, I wondered, at such an early age, did he desire a badge? As I reflected on it, I realized that a badge or a trophy symbolizes acknowledgment of an achievement. It’s a way to measure performance, a milestone, a job well done.

Jack knew this – so of course he wanted a badge. He achieved a milestone – he learned to skate – yet he didn’t pass the basic level to earn the badge.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in passing out badges or trophies to everyone. Yet at those times when we try really hard, accomplish a milestone, or make an improvement – putting our heart and soul into something – we, like Jack, can become very disappointed.

I was humbled in this moment as I was unable to comfort Jack. While he often appears to be an old soul with wisdom beyond his years, in this moment, he was 7. He didn’t want to know about failing forward or what a good job he had done or even how proud we were of him. He wanted the badge.

Jack is a special person. I often tell him that he tried very hard to be born. Jack was not easy to conceive; not easy to be carried during pregnancy; not easy in his delivery into the world. He came into the world prematurely and he tried very hard to leave the hospital. After several weeks in the hospital, he came home and tried very hard to simply eat. He later tried very hard working with an occupational therapist to sit, roll over, stand, walk and climb. In school, he tries very hard to capture all the information and process it.

Here’s the thing you need to know about Jack – he tries really hard at everything he does. In his trying, he accomplishes more than most boys his age. Jack tries really hard to improve his baseball swing, going to the hoop, running in soccer, snowboarding in his backyard, skiing down the mountain and especially skating.

The other thing that you need to know about Jack is that he sees things differently – bigger and grander than most of us. Jack also feels things deeper than most – both the joys and the disappointments. I believe he already knows confidence and humility as well as holiness and wholeness.

In his book “Breathing Under Water,” Richard Rohr tells us: “God seems to have hidden holiness and wholeness in a secret place where only the humble will find it.” Jack has found the secret place. People who try really hard and fail are those who often break through to enlightenment and compassion.

Now I am not saying that Jack had a breakthrough to enlightenment. But he is the most compassionate 7-year-old I have ever known. What I can tell you is that he learned that even though he “tried really hard,” he didn’t receive a badge – yet this won’t stop him from trying really hard in everything he does. That is Jack.

Teresa Schulz is a spiritual director, author, retreat facilitator and health care chaplain. She is the founder of Tools for Intentional Living and Transformation and co-founder of MaineSpiritus. She can be reached by email at:

[email protected]

Blog: http://taschulz56.wordpress.com

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