Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Pinewood Derby

Today was our cub scout packs' Pinewood Derby. For those of you who aren’t scouts, the Pinewood Derby is an annual scout tradition; pitting scout against scout in pulse jumping, nail biting derby races. About a month before the event, each scout is given a 6” x 2” block of pinewood with the charge to create a racing vehicle that will shoot like a bullet down the 40 foot derby track.

Every year I’m moved to see grown men revert back to their childhood as they reminisce on stories of working with their dad’s on their Pinewood Derbys. Some have even admitted to still proudly displaying their derbys despite their being middle aged. I believe this is more for the memories than the glory. It’s always fun to watch the 10 year-old come out in grown men as they regale their derby days.

This year, due to my ex-husband’s busy schedule, I was tasked with overseeing my son’s block of pinewood transform into a mini NASCARish creation. I should interject here that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to aesthetics; however, this was not my project, and I had to step aside and let my son take hold of his creative process. My job was simply to purchase the paints, decals, and weights, and let the metamorphosis of his block of wood into a championship derby take place. By relinquishing my ideas (and, OK, a little .... um... control) on how I thought my son’s derby should look like, I was utterly amazed at the car he ultimately turned out. Wow! A lesson for mom’s in the Pinewood Derby? How novel.

My son was knocked out of the competition mid-way through. Not due to lack of effort. He placed second in most of the races, eventually making way for the other scouts to vie for top prize. One would think this would bring about a sense of discouragement given the hard-work and build up over the past several weeks; however, this was not so with my son or the other scouts competing.

During the final heats, one of my son’s friends, (whom we’ll call Jack) was coming in as the front runner. When it was Jack’s turn to race, all of the boys were enthusiastically shouting his name. JACK! JACK! JACK! Each heat that passed, Jack was quickly becoming the front runner and his posse was screaming JACK, JACK, JACK, louder and louder. It didn’t matter that each had lost and now Jack was in the spotlight. They were all genuinely cheering for their friend, Jack. In essence, his wins were their wins. When the final heat had ended, the Cub Master read off the third place winner. All applauded the winner. Then the second place winner. Again, we applauded the winner. As we awaited the announcement of the Grand Prize winner, all of Jack’s friends were huddled around him, fingers crossed, and anticipation high. Then the Cub Master announced, "And the grand prize winner for the 2007 Pinewood Derby is… JACK". The room erupted into frenzied screams and ovations. Jack’s friends were jumping up and down with excitement and hugging him so tightly that he could barely break loose to go up and collect his award. I was touched by the sincerity of sportsmanship and overall true friendship. This was truly Jack’s day. It was clear that Jack had won much more than the Pinewood Derby today.

They say we can learn a lot from children if we look with the right eyes and an open heart, and today was no exception. I learned that the genuine love and support in friendship are gifts far greater than any trophy we could take home. I also learned that even when I don’t place for the grand prize in various areas of my life, to stand by my friends with heartfelt enthusiasm and applause when they succeed.

Although the other scouts didn’t take top prize, as far as I’m concerned, they all came in number one as friends. Way to go guys!