Everyone's a Winner
by Commissioner Robin Dunster
|Children in India sing a Salvation Army song|
|A timbrel display at the USA Southern Territory’s Star-Search competition|
IN a culture of political correctness, frequent references are made in the news media to the negative impact on children of competitive activities.
Is competition healthy?
Which of these proverbs is nearest the truth?:
‘It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,’ or, ‘Winning isn’t everything ... it’s the only thing.’
The reservation about competitive sport in (British) schools, for example, is not simply an anxiety that some will win and some will lose; the concern is that the same schools will always win and the same schools will always lose because of embedded inequalities. British writer and weekly columnist, Will Hutton, comments: ‘This is profoundly demoralising for the permanent losers, especially when they are children.’
Others suggest that we live in a society that motivates through competition.
I can remember being impressed, some years ago, when I heard a territorial commander from one of the Salvation Army’s Indian territories talking about his strategy for ensuring that young people in his territory would be familiar with songs from the Salvation Army songbook. An annual competition was held, before which every group was given six songs to learn, not knowing which of the songs they would be asked to sing on the day of judging. His goal was to ensure that every year at least six new songs were added to the corps repertoire for worship.
Throughout the Salvation Army world sporting and creative and performing arts competitions have been part of our tradition.
To quote Rabbi Boruch Leff: ‘Our society tells us that unless you’re the best, you’re not worth all that much. No one really believes the old adage, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Everyone’s real philosophy is, ‘Winning isn’t everything ... it’s the only thing.”’
That is not how I saw it when surrounded by hundreds of the USA Eastern Territory’s Star-Search competitors this year in New York. While everyone had prepared well and hoped for a trophy, it was evident that the sheer fun of participation, meeting up with friends and making new ones were all part of the experience. Even if not everyone went home with an award that Saturday, in my books, and those of many who were present, everyone was a winner!
Commissioner Robin Dunster is The Salvation Army’s Chief of the Staff – second-in-charge of the international movement