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《Lessons for Elementary Schools (3)》 __ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

I Got Second Place

Nancy is a starry-eyed student in Mr. Shaw’s Grade 4 class. She likes school very much because everyone there is a friend and, they together listen, learn, play, ask questions and speak, taking turns, or participating in competitions.

Mr. Shaw holds a spelling competition once every two weeks in his English class. He presents the words orally and watches to see who raises his/her hand first to spell. If that student spells correctly he would mark down the name in a cleverly prepared chart. At the end of any competition, Mr. Shaw would look at the chart and identify the winners, listing them in sequence, from first to tenth places. The words are difficult to spell. Not too many students can do all of them correctly.

Ten words are used in each competition. They are chosen each time words which begin in the same alphabet, like A or B.
On this day at mid-term, the competition has words all beginning with the alphabet I. The ten words are icicle, imbalance, idiom, irrelevance, immensity, integration, isolation, itinerary, injury, and impact.

Nancy won second place in this competition. She is so elated that she shouts out laud when she got home after school, “I came in second place!”

It takes her mother and grandpa minutes to calm down the excitement, as they learn the details of Nancy’s victory.

“I’ll bake you your favorite raison pie for dinner,” Mom said as she congratulates her daughter’s triumph.

Grandpa takes her into his lap after giving her a glass of milk. They then settle in a rocker at the front porch for a leisurely chat, something they habitually do everyday.

“Guess why I am so happy, Grandpa?” Nancy asks

“Because you earned second place.”

“No. It is because second place is a neat position, in between first and second places,”

“Would you not like to get first place?” Grandpa asks

“No.”

“Why?”

“Well, because Elaine gets it all the time, even in other competitions.”

“I bet you can too, if you try hard.”

“No.”

Grandpa adjusts their bodies so they see each other face to face. He sees Nancy looking very serious, her eyes beaming with fires of determination. He asks her again: “Would you tell me why?”

“Because I enjoy where I am and what I do. I hate fighting.”

Grandpa is really touched. He was a private in the army during the war. He saw many comrades died as they followed orders to compete. And now this nine-year old girl has this idea of choosing to be in second place and be happy.

Still, he asks: “Nancy, is Elaine happy?”

“I guess so.” she replied, “But she was so unhappy this one time when Matthew got first place. She cried and cried.”

“Would you cry if you do not get second or first or third place in the next competition?”

“Definitely not!”

“Would you be just a wee bit unhappy?”

“Surely not.”

“Why?”

“Grandpa, I told you I am happy where I am and what I do.”

“Because you do not want to be like Elaine, the all time winner?”

“Yes. And because I am Nancy, your cuddly little granddaughter and the darling in this house.”

Grandpa squeezes her tight and kisses her hard, saying no more.

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