A Story of Courage and Compassion

by Gary Cannon, Administrator
Waldorf School of Cape Cod

In keeping with the holiday season, I'd like to recount one of my favorite memories of courage and compassion exhibited by Waldorf students.  It took place at another Waldorf school, but it could have just as easily been at our school or any other, for that matter. The occasion was a 5th grade Greek Olympiad, similar to the ones held at Lexington Waldorf.

As is the practice, students from the various schools were co-mingled into the five different city-states. There was a boy from one of the schools who was physically disabled. He could walk and run to some degree, but with a significant degree of difficulty and awkwardness.

As the students in their city-states were lined up around a sizable track for a relay race, I wondered what the judges of the event were going to do about this boy. The answer was nothing. He lined up last as the final runner and was treated exactly as all the other students. I thought to myself, "Hmm, this is going to be interesting." With my public school background, I was concerned that this boy, clearly not able to run as fast, was going to be teased or taunted for losing ground for his city-state.  

Well, the race played out exactly as it was scripted. The boy's city-state had a significant lead when the final baton was passed to him which was eventually lost. However, what transpired surprised and touched me deeply. Whatever this boy lacked in leg, he made up in heart.   As soon as he started his run around the track, the students across all city-states went nuts! The cheers, even as this boy lost ground, were deafening. When he arrived at the finish line well behind the other runners, you would have thought he had won the a real Olympics. Kids were cheering and jumping on him. It was a remarkable moment, second only to one I witnessed a bit later in the day.

During the closing awards ceremony when laurel wreaths were presented to the students for grace (form and beauty) and truth (winners of the events). The judges decided ahead of time to award this boy, who gave everything his all, a special laurel wreath for his heart and enthusiasm. When this was announced and the boy came up, the students rose to their feet and didn't stop cheering and clapping until well after the laurel was presented. Everyone was touched by the grace, courage and compassion witnessed that day.

As we head into this holiday season I wish you and your families all the joy and beauty contained in this cherished memory of Waldorf education in action.