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Friday, July 12, 2013

An Olympic Moment...

Lessons Learned…
Eric Heiden

In 1980, the Winter Olympics occurred in Lake Placid, New York, and at those games a shining star emerged in the event of speed skating. A shining star, midwestern boy, and  hometown hero, Eric Heiden won an unprecedented five gold medals. The hometown was Madison, Wisconsin.  Also in 1980, in a third grade classroom just outside the city limits of Madison, a young student had compiled an amazing, voluminous  photo and article collection chronicling the successes of his hero, Eric Heiden, and was showing it to a certain student teacher.  I was flabbergasted by the page after page of beautifully organized and precisely captioned pictures.  In between photos and articles, Tommy had ever so neatly added his own editorial comments praising the unmatchable efforts, while recording the untouchable statistics of this wonderful humble, hometown superhero.  Tommy’s work was undoubtedly gold medal material as well. Somehow responding to the experience of seeing this with something such as, “Wow, great job!”  seemed to fall tragically short, but what was there to say or to do to celebrate the magnificence of the project and adequately affirm Tommy? Clearly, Tommy wasn’t seeking accolades, for the project itself was the prize, but still, this student teacher’s mind was reeling.  A thought. Tommy, may I bring this home with me over the weekend so that I can read every page? I promise I will guard it and protect it and return it to school Monday morning.  Sure.  Home it went, and it was truly never out of my sight.  I looked up Eric Heiden’s address, hmmmm, not too far from where this student teacher/ UW-Madison student lived. He couldn’t possibly be home. He’s probably not even in the country. I could just drive over to that neighborhood with Tommy’s book.  Self-coaching all the while, I discussed aloud, alone in the car, I will not go to the door because that’s just creepy. It’s a little creepy that I am even driving to the neighborhood, except that this is for Tommy.  Eric Heiden will not be home. He is a world famous Olympic Gold Medalist. This is completely ridiculous. Turn the car around and go home, bring the book back to Tommy on Monday morning, and Tommy will never know  of this craziness. Convinced that turning around and forgetting about this was the best answer, I saw him. Eric Heiden was standing in his front yard, a front yard, as I wasn’t sure if it was his or not. With sweaty palms and shaking hands, I tried to duck down as I was driving and then realized how foolish that looked. Brave. Be brave for Tommy. I stopped the car, parked, got out, and approached Superman while clutching Tommy’s treasure. Eric was gracious and sweet and kind and loved every page of Tommy’s  brilliant book. He laughed, pointed out things, and reminisced just for a bit, and then, in an act of supreme perfectness, Eric Heiden wrote a lovely, thoughtful , and infinitely meaningful message to Tommy.  On Monday morning, before Tommy even had his coat off, he raced to me and asked if I had his book.  Yes.