Crowds were cheering. Not for us—we were the losing team in this basketball blowout. Actually we were quite often the losing team. I won’t bore you with the whys and wherefores. We simply were always the underdogs despite giving it our all.
Have you ever had to face the court or field, the cheers and jeers, knowing you would play your very best… and it wouldn’t be enough?
My high school was small, and students were recruited to play sports just to have enough warm bodies. Talent and skill were not required. A couple of us were fairly good athletes but not good enough to carry everyone. I remember having to adjust my attitude more than once. It’s really easy to get angry on the court when your teammates just aren’t capable of doing their part.
It became a challenge to me to find some reason to keep trying, keep playing my hardest, keep caring. I can almost time-travel back to the gym when I chose to encourage my failing teammates and appreciate the game, even smile when it would have made more sense to cry.
Related: 13 Life Rules to Keep You Motivated
Years later, at my little brother’s graduation, someone came up to me and said, “I remember you! You used to play against my daughter in basketball. You were the only one always smiling!”
What?! Someone noticed? They didn’t know how hard it had been, what it had cost to choose happiness over bitterness. But being known for doing so years later made it worth the effort. I was happy with that legacy.
I still remember to find the people around me who need encouragement. I still remember to cheer for those who were winning.
Those days come back to me often. They came back to me when I faced divorce, miscarriage, homelessness and hunger. I felt like the underdog all over again. Every morning was like going back on that blasted basketball court, where I knew I would give all I had, and it still wouldn’t be enough.
But the lessons we learn on those courts are valuable. I still remember to find the people around me who need encouragement. I still remember to cheer for those who were winning. I still remember that all of my challenges are just like those games, that giving it my all is a part of what makes life great.
I remember to smile. Because that is my legacy, and someone is noticing.
Related: 11 Quotes About Leaving a Legacy
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.