Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I used to sing a lot.  I would often also use American Sign Language as I sang because it was the language I was most comfortable expressing myself with.  I guess I figured that any emotion that wasn't coming through in my singing would be evident in my signs.  I remember when I came across the word selflessness in a song and couldn't think of a specific sign to use, so I did what I always did - I pulled our fat, red dictionary out of my Dad's desk drawer and looked up the word.  (This was in the days before the internets even existed - am I old or what?)  Here's what I found:
selfless·ness n.  Having, exhibiting, or motivated by no concern for oneself; unselfish.

Whenever I figure out a new sign it gets stored in the part of my mind that puts pictures to words.  And as I experience situations that fit the word my mind creates a picture which is nicely tucked away next to the definition.

But this story is not about me.  It is about Thumbelina, whose face is now permanently ingrained in my mind's dictionary next to the word selflessness.

Thumbelina has wanted to be in a school musical ever since she started high school.  The problem is, she has also always wanted to be on the high school's cross country team - and the musical always takes place during cross country season.  Because this is her senior year, her last chance to live this dream of being on stage, she decided to go for it.  She had been practicing with the cross country team all summer long just in case she didn't get in to the musical, but her plan was to fulfill her dream and perform in the musical this year.  Well, Thumbelina tried out for the musical.  And she got in!  She was pretty excited, as you can imagine.  She decided that she wanted to try to do both cross country and the musical.

  After she got home with her rehearsal schedule and started to look at the dates on our family calendar she realized that most of her cross country meets would fall on the dates of required rehearsals for the musical.  She was torn.  I asked her what was making the choice so difficult when her plan all along had been to be in the musical.  Thumbelina told me that their girls varsity cross country team was the best they had been in years.  In fact, they had a pretty great chance of making it to the State Meet.  The problem was that she was one of the top 5 runners - the ones whose placing in each race determined their place overall.  In other words: if she didn't run they might not make it to state.

So, as much as Thumbelina knew she would have a fantastic time rehearsing and performing with her friends in the musical, she felt like she would be letting the girls cross country team down if she didn't compete with them.

She chose to run.

I asked her later if she had explained to the drama or choir teacher why she chose cross country.  She didn't because she didn't want them to think she was looking for their praise or pity or whatever.  She also does not like sounding braggy by telling people that she's one of the team's top runners.  I asked if she told her coach why she was choosing cross country.  No, she hadn't.  She just pushed her dream aside, quietly turned in her script for the musical, kept attending cross country practices and kept her reasoning to herself.

To me, that is selflessness.


~j. said...

Dear Thumbelina,

The stage will wait for YOU. I promise.

KS Photography said...

I hope she made the best choice for her :) Good girl either way.

Anaise said...

Sweet girl!!!

(And a lovely tribute, Mom)

Rachel said...

Well done!! I like J's comment. It's true! The stage awaits. There are many stages she'll perform on in her life. It may not look like the 'stage' she had in her dreams or imagination.... but she'll perform and she'll shine, just like she did when she made this decision.