Tend and Befriend vs Fight or Flight

August 18th, 2016 | Posted by Barbara Belknap in Gather the Women

Abbey D'Agostino being helped by Nikki Hamblin.

Abbey D’Agostino being helped by Nikki Hamblin.

Like millions of other people around the world, my husband Doug and I are watching the Olympics every evening on TV. As is often the case, we see the same thing, but it’s through the gender lens.

I have never been engaged in sports. Tried softball in a couples’ league here in Juneau once, but I quit. My legs would be so cold that they would defy my brain’s urging to get to first base. After tripping and falling a couple of times running from first base to second base, I quit. It was not any fun at all. I was no more of an athlete in my 40’s than I was in my teens. No softball. No basketball. No bowling. Nada. I tried, but I did it only to please other people. It wasn’t any fun at all.

On the other hand, Doug’s father encouraged him to play basketball even though he’s not very tall. He played baseball, too, and excelled at both sports. He perks up when the men’s Olympic events come on. To be fair, he also enjoys watching the women’s basketball matches and the diving. His father’s mantra was “Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing.” I’ve never liked that expression. It’s a psychological ambush.

The women from around the world competing in the Olympics are living and breathing 21st century goddesses from Olympus. During the women’s events, we watch women fight fiercely for the ball and grasp that last burst of energy from deep within at the finish line. In one literal display of “tend and befriend”, we saw a woman stop her own race to help an injured woman who had crumpled on the track in agony.

What millions of people witnessed on August 18th during the women’s 5,000 meter race was the literal meaning of “tend and befriend”. Abbey D’Agostino of the United States tripped and fell on the track. Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand stopped running mid-stride, reached out to Abbey, and tenderly helped her stand up. The two women slowly made their way to the finish line. Nikki Hamblin finished in 29th place, just ahead of a limping D’Agostino. The spectators in Rio rose up and cheered, as did many of us watching from home. With all due respect to my father-in-law’s memory, to lose because you put tending first can actually be everything.

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