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Winter Olympics.

Our family loves watching the competitions—

skating in figures, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, the luge…

it’s all fascinating….

especially for average folks like us who are athletically-challenged.

Not the Croft guys, of course—just the girls.

We dream of being so skilled, so strong, so elegant, graceful—

we who can’t even get the lid open on the jar of Greek olives,

who can’t seem to go a whole week without somehow bruising our bodies

in some minor klutzy accident.

So we watch in envy and awe,

while contenting ourselves with sliding on the kitchen floor in our fuzzy socks…

wishing all the while to dance and twirl and glide on a solid expanse of glistening ice.

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The commercials, though, are another thing entirely.

McNuggets have sadly and seriously over-rated themselves if they think biting into a chunk of overly-processed “is-it-even-real-chicken?” simulates the same feeling as tasting a gold medal!

(In my honest opinion.)

Some of the commercials are decent.

A few emphasize great starts… understandably so.

Images flash on the screen of little kids attempting runs and jumps

and moving forward without falling on boards longer than they are tall…

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reminding us where Olympic athletes got their start.

Yet, between those great starts and exhilarating finishes,

there were the challenging years in the middle—

those greater years, and essential years,

made up of countless hours of trying and failing

and trying and failing,

and trying again until getting it right,

and then trying some more…

days when pleasure and play-dates and sleeping in were sacrificed on the altar of commitment.

When the pursuit of a dream demanded diligence beyond the norm,

and childhood recreation turned into grueling, monotonous, even painful practice sessions.

Because we all know,

or we should know by now…

great starts are not enough.

A great start is worthless, meaningless, of no consequence,

when we fail to build on what was begun.

Because obviously,

we’re all surrounded by

and live with

and peer in the mirror at individuals

who had great starts at great dreams and greater endeavors,

or even small, attainable goals.

Unfortunately, too many of us don’t persevere.

We give up trying in those challenging years that follow—

called the sweatin’ years in the middle.

And because at some point during the in between,

we stop trying,

our efforts at starting disintegrate…

forfeiting any and all exhilarating finishes,

or even not-bad finishes—which are better than no finish at all.

When the years spent (or was it only months?) in pursuit of a dream

are allowed to be eroded by the difficulty,

rather than being strengthened through endurance…

becoming nothing more than the wind-down, receding, dissolving, evaporation of all our grand intentions…

instead of joining the beginning with the ending,

the middle years disappear.

And the start is no longer great.

Because we know, for those who make it to the medal podium of any Olympic game,

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that’s what the years in the middle are—the driving, promising, success-inducing link,

connecting the very first attempt to that final step across the finish line.

Even for those with less-than-great starts

(because it is not the greatness of the start that is required, but the diligence of the effort continued),

without the sweatin’ and the workin’ and not quittin’

of those demanding years in the middle,

there would be no Olympic dreams—or any dreams—come true.

(Photo of figure skater courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License)

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