Ordinary Gold Medals

Last week when the Olympics began, we snuggled up on beanbags to watch the events unfold. We all stared at the screen, mesmerized by the feats these world-class athletes performed. Figure skating, moguls, curling, downhill ski jumping, snowboarding–each one required utmost precision and finesse.

I am amazed that the human body can even move in these incredible ways. The sheer stamina, agility, and strength of these Olympians is so extraordinary that it seems nearly impossible. And yet, they go forward and compete for the gold.

As I watched each athlete maneuver his snowboard through the difficult jumps, my mind wandered back to the short video clip we had watched about Red Gerard, the 16 year old snowboarder from Colorado. How his family had lived in a different state, but traveled to Colorado each winter, and then finally decided to stay permanently. Red’s dad helped him build a snowboard course on their property and he and his brothers spent countless hours perfecting their skills. I thought about how each athlete has a story — one of hard work and sacrifice and passion propelling them forward on the Olympian path.

And then the moment arrives–the moment they have worked for and dreamed of for so long. The moment confronts them starkly on the slope. Some, like Red, give it their all and with peak performance and favorable runs, win the gold. But others have a bout of nerves, or a bad run, or a head wind, that sends their gold medal dreams crashing to the ground. And that leads me to wonder if they feel all is a waste. Do they feel like failures? Do they relive that moment of “not quite good enough” over and over again?

If I was the person in charge of the Olympics, (if there is such a person), I would wish to give them all gold medals. I know this seems counter-intuitive to a elite competition, but that’s what my heart longs to do. Because each athlete is spectacular to even be there in my humble opinion. Each one deserves the gold for trying their best and giving their all.

And then my mind wanders to a new path entirely and I find myself wondering about all us ordinary people. All of us mothers and fathers and grandparents. All of us regular, common people who will never be in the Olympics and never in our wildest dreams win a gold medal.

Do our efforts matter?

Sometimes I wonder if the world has it backwards. We award athletes with medals, and rightly so–they do achieve the nearly impossible. But what of the nearly impossible efforts of ordinary mothers and fathers raising children?

Cooking thousands of meals for picky eaters, changing an endless mountain of diapers, countless kisses and bedtime stories, cleaning sticky floors and counters again, washing clothes, giving baths, styling hair, coming up with rules and consequences, advising, listening, listening, listening.

These are the works that are heroic in my eyes.

None of it is glamorous and there is no gold medal to look forward to at the end of the day or even when all the children are grown. And yet, we do it anyway.

Why? Because deep down we know that this work is far more important than anything else. As President James E. Faust once said: “Serving others…need not be on a grand scale, and it is noblest within the family.”

But if ever we feel that our work is meaningless or unfulfilling or just plain too hard, a gold medal can be just a prayer away.

Because the Great Judge isn’t measuring our distance or our speed or our skill. He’s measuring our hearts. And if we’ve given it our best, He can give us a peaceful warm assurance in our hearts of Divine approval.

And that is worth more than all the gold medals in the world.

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