Shuttle Run and Hush Puppies

I remember the day I rode the bus to school in the 5th grade back in 1974. We held our PE classes in the old gym of the old high school that partially burned back in the 1950’s, where a student was tragically killed. The small old gym carried an ancient scent of many years of varnish and weathered wood, trapped air and children’s sweat. I sat on the bus anticpating my school day, and the shuttle run.

I went to change into my gym clothes. Today we were being timed in the shuttle run for our presidential badge competition. The shuttle run is where you run from one end of the gym to other, pick up a block and carry it to the other end, quickly setting it on the line, and then running to retrieve the second block and return for your time.

As I opened my gym back to change into my shorts and tee-shirt and sneakers, I quickly realized I forgot my sneakers. To my horror I realized the only shoes I had with me were my brown hush puppies. So, reluctantly I put on my shorts and shirt, and relaced my hush puppies.

As I stepped out on the gym floor, stares and laughter filled the gym. My face felt suddenly warm as I tried to laugh off my situation. Mrs. Caldwell, our PE teacher, blew the whistle for us to be quiet so she could explain the rules of the shuttle run.

When it came my turn to run, I could hear fellow students whispering and snickering. The whistle blew and I was off. When I got to the first block, usually with my sneakers I would expect to slide on the old, dusty floor, but the hush puppies gripped firmly, and I was quickly running back to set the block on the other end of the gym floor. Like a shot I turned and retrieved the other block, my silly looking hush puppies the perfect footwear for the shuttle run!

I ran the fastest time in my class, which for me was not common. Fellow students went from snickering to staring at my miracle shoes as I smiled proudly.

Later that spring our school held its annual field day, where students competed in different events such as softball throw, 600-yard run, running long jump, 50 yard dash…and the shuttle run.

You guessed it. I signed up for the shuttle run and when it was my turn to compete, I stepped out not in my sneakers, but my hush puppies. I heard more snickers from students at other classes, but those snickers quickly evaporated when I won the blue ribbon!

I’d like to say I have those hush puppies in a trophy case next to my blue ribbon, but both are now but dust in the earth somewhere. However, the memories remain.

That day in PE taught me to never give up in a situation where I lacked resources. Never give up when circumstances seem impossible or improbable. During this season of Covid and unrest, I am reminded today to lace up my shoes each day, asking the Lord for His grace and wisdom, and continue running the race set before me.

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