Why Life Is Like a Relay Race

Good morning!

I have always loved the Summer Olympics. There is something inspiring about watching people who have committed four years (and really many more) of their lives to maximize a single opportunity to prove they are the best in the world at something.

While I rarely get the opportunity to watch The Games these days (two kids under 5 will do that to you), I still love to follow along with the events. There are two event in particular that I have always found compelling–team relays in swimming and running. The drama of each moment as one team member does their best to put their other team members, and the team as a whole, in the best position to win draws me in. I love when someone appears to be just far enough behind the leader that victory appears to be out of reach only to watch them overcome the odds to catch up and win. The moment is electric.

Question–if the team member running or swimming the last leg of the relay claimed they had won the race alone, how ridiculous would that appear? Would we not point to the other three team relay members, reminding their confused teammate that reaching the finish line would have been impossible without the entire team’s contribution? The results of each team member is interconnected to the results of the team as a whole, both individually and collectively. If we can so easily identify this in a race, why do we so often miss it in our lives?

People have asked me why poverty should matter to everyone. Beyond the obvious “every life matters” answer, the reality is our decision to either address or ignore it impacts all of us. Often, we live life as if poverty does not exist as it does not appear to make a difference in our every day lives. I am guilty of this. However, similar to the team relay member who mistakenly believes they won the race alone, we mistakenly miss the reality that we are all interconnected. The turmoil of the past year should teach us this. While those of us on the “outside” of poverty can try to ignore it, the realities it creates for those trapped in it eventually turns into a volcano, erupting far beyond its apparent crater.

Poverty also costs all of us. Just like an injured individual team member harms the performance of the team as a whole, allowing poverty to persist keeps our world from thriving. Imagine a world in which everyone who wanted to maximize their potential had the opportunity to do so? How much higher would this lift our world as a whole? The concept of zero sum is a myth. The more opportunity people have to use their God-given gifts, the more opportunities we will all have to live fully.

If you have a chance to watch a relay race during the Summer Olympics this year, I hope it reminds you of our interconnectedness and the opportunity we have to create an even better world. Through hope, both practical and spiritual, I believe we can continue to eradicate poverty and the lie of hopelessness that sustains it. Do you? It matters to all of us.

James Belt

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