Two hours of waiting. Two hours of watching. And it was finally Duke’s turn to race.
His pinewood derby car – painted mustard yellow, cherry red, and plum purple was placed in lane four. “Ready? Set. GO!” the overly-excited Boy Scout yelled. The gate was dropped. The cars rolled down. The derby cars in lanes 1-3 were neck-to-neck. Duke’s, a good two feet behind. His face dejected. Embarrassed and splotchy red.
This went on for three more races – each lane, and each time, Duke’s car came in dead last.
There was no way to sugarcoat it. His failure was obvious to all. Head down, he shuffled over to the sidelines to sit in my lap. None of us saying what we were all feeling: complete disappointment.
But I knew something that he didn’t. You see, even though his car was slow, he would still get a trophy. Because only three boys raced cars in his age group, all three would place! Redemption served on a silver platter.
The awards ceremony couldn’t come soon enough. And by the time they called up the den leader for the Wolf Pack, I was ready. Camera rolling. Hope rising.
“In third place… Duke Hecker!!” His eyes lifted. His head held up. We whooped. Hollered. Clapped and cheered. And in those three seconds, his entire demeanor changed. From failure to glory. Sadness to joy. And the thing is, the circumstances didn’t change. Only the frame around it.
It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s like the difference between shopping at Neiman Marcus versus Walmart. I can leave one store feeling incredibly insecure, and the other feeling like I’m winning at life. I’m the same person. Same appearance. Different frame.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that for others? This guy I’ve been seeing does that for me. I know there are a million other women who are smarter, prettier, and more talented. But he makes me feel special. Like I’m the only one. And it’s incredibly disarming. Like my bruised and broken heart is starting to heal and grow and trust again. All it took was a little reframing.
Now, I’m not promoting the art of denying, minimalizing, or giving-a-false-sense-of-confidence. We’re not doing anyone any favors by reframing unhealthy, abusive, or harmful behaviors. No, I’m in the business of reframing brokenness with hope. We have the power to reshape others’ perspectives simply by offering a new frame. And that’s the most valuable gift we can offer.
As soon as we got home, Duke reorganized his bookshelf. He placed his trophy right on top. Front and center. It’s not so much the relic – plastic, hollow, and cheap. It’s what it stands for: the day he felt like he was somebody special.
I smiled because I know the feeling. And it feels really, really good.