The city choir my girls sing with wrapped things up for the school year last week. On the last day of rehearsals, they awarded trophies to the kids. The trophies weren't for skill or talent---they were for attendance. If you hadn't missed a single rehearsal all year long (or if you did, but you made it up on an alternate day), you received a trophy. Between three girls, we now have a gleaming collection of 10 of these beauties.
The past three years when my kids have gotten in the car after receiving their trophies, I've jokingly said, "OK, hand 'em over. Those trophies really belong to ME you know, because I'm the one who has made sure you've not missed any of these rehearsals." I was kidding, of course, but that joke must have permanently embedded itself in my oldest daughter's brain because she beat me to the punch this last time. She hopped in the van after practice and tossed me the trophy and said, "Here you go, Mom. I know it's really yours."
I backpedaled pretty fast as I said, "Oh, come on. I was really just kidding all this time. You are the one who sat through all the rehearsals. You've earned the trophy." She replied with reasoned cynicism (which she gets naturally from her father), "Yeah, but a trophy doesn't really mean much if everyone gets one, does it?"
I'll admit it. I've had the same thought before. But I didn't want her to be discouraged that evening, so I probed a little bit. I asked her if everyone really did get one. As it turns out, everyone really did get a trophy, just for participating. But the kids who have never missed a rehearsal got a bigger trophy and not everyone got the bigger trophy. But she was still a little skeptical as to why perfect attendance would merit the bigger prize.
This was the opportunity I needed. I told her that, sure, it might seem a little silly to be given a prize for showing up every week. But then I told her that what was really being rewarded was consistency and commitment---two character traits that seem to be dying in our culture. Being faithful to do what you've said you are going to do is nothing to sneeze at; in fact, it very well might be worthy of a trophy.
She looked down at the trophy again. She was quiet. She was smiling.
And I will never sneer at a perfect attendance award again.