Sometimes life is simply about keeping going. Doing the right things, in the right order, without seeing overly spectacular results. Character is built this way, children are raised this way, education and careers evolve this way, food is grown this way, the seasons pass this way. If you feel like you are going around in circles, and not much is happening, bear this in mind.
I was reminded of the power of plodding when I went to the theatre last Christmas with my family. Things all started pleasantly enough. It was a crisp, cold Saturday afternoon in December and, as a family, we were going to see "The Hare and the Tortoise". We have been to this particular theatre on many an occasion. The productions are small, often with only two actors. It's warm, it's friendly, it's uplifting, it's light-hearted - classic children's stories are retold, often with a quirky twist. Everyone smiles, the children are happy and carried along in the moment, the mums look over at their sweet little ones with a moist eye, the dads take the opportunity for a nap in the dark and, when it's all over, everyone drifts off into the cold December dusk, feeling enriched by this little dramatic distraction - this little pocket of warmth on a cold, wintery afternoon.
Only this time - this time was different. The afternoon started in much the same way. The chatter and the low hum of voices, the dimly lit theatre, the piped music, the rustling of sweet wrappers as we sat waiting for the performance to start.
The play started and progressed as normal, the children laughed, the mums smiled, the dads napped and made little grunting noises - and we slowly approached the end of the play.... You know the story - the hare and the tortoise. They have a race. The hare starts off the race at a lightning pace, the tortoise is soon left far behind.
The result of the race seems to be a foregone conclusion - the hare is going to win - he is going to thrash the little slow tortoise. He is so much faster. So much more talented. He gets complacent. He gets distracted.
All the while the tortoise carries on at a steady pace, plodding along, making slow and steady progress, until finally, he overtakes the hare and....and....
And this is where it all began to go wrong. The young actors built up to the crescendo moment: I was half-listening as I napped.
And the winner is....the winner is:
My left eye snapped open like a lizard.
The what? I must have misheard.
The Haretoise is the winner children!
My right eye snapped open now. I squinted and focused my hooded stare on the young exuberant actors as they jumped up and down.
The tortoise won children AND the hare won, because, because, we are all winners aren't we children! We all win in the end, don't we children.
"You have got to be kidding me" I muttered, a little too loudly. My wife glared at me and elbowed me. "Be nice" she said - "there are children around".
And by now the actors are bounding up and down the steps, telling us that we are all good at something, we are all winners really. And they start to ask, first children, and then mums and dads, what we are good at. Because we are all good at something. All this is done in a cheery, bouncy, Teletubbies kind of voice.
I find a sarcastic response forming inside my mind....fomenting and rumbling upwards... My wife has a scared look on her face, hoping they don't bounce over to me.
I don't know if I will be able to help myself. My response to the enthusiastic questioning of the actors forms in my mind: “I'm good at ... I'm good at smelling politically correct drivel and nonsense from a mile. I'm good at telling children's stories the way they are supposed to be told.... “
In my mind's eye I stand up and I tell all the children - the tortoise wins children. The tortoise wins!!! Not the hare. Not the haretoise. That's the whole point of the story! It's not how you start it's how you finish! You may be a plodder but if you keep going you will win in the end. Character counts - not just charisma! Lots of people start the race well, not many finish it well!
Fortunately for all involved, the actors bounce past me - the moment passes - everyone drifts out of the theatre - I at least tell my kids the truth. They won't be fooled. They know the truth. The tortoise wins. The hare is a loser.