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August 23, 2001
Elementary school end-of-the-year assemblies invariably ended with the presentation of the Most Improved Award. Nobody wanted this award--not even its recipient. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the speeches and the awards for Most Athletic, Best School Spirit, Highest Grade Point Average, and the like, came Most Improved.
I remember the hush and the dread as the school principal began his formulaic drone about the meaning of Most Improvement--determination; struggle; something about Overcoming Obstacles; that god-awful Pluck. If the school had issued military-style collapsible shovels, there would have been a foxhole under every folding chair. When the principal lobbed the Most Improved Award, we wanted nothing but cover.
We believed Most Improved meant Most Pathetic or Biggest Loser or Most Likely You Didn't Get A Better Award. We understood Relativity better than Einstein. The more improved you were, the farther you had come; the farther you had come, the farther back you had started.
I never once received a Most Improved Award. And, now, I see this as sad. I missed countless opportunities to stretch Relative Improvement in the opposite direction... To start at ANY point and to move forward. I missed my chance to witness divinity first-hand and made flesh in those humble, unassuming Nobodies who annually shuffled across the auditorium to muted applause to collect a plastic trophy as coveted as polio. I was just plain blind.
But now I see. And I hope and pray my name gets called when the next Most Improved Award is given.
© 2001 by the beastmaster