The Great Race of Astir

Ashley Lasseter

“The winner of this year’s fiftieth annual great race of Astir is Jackson Merrit! May we all strive to do as much as Mr. Merrit!” The crowd boomed with zeal as Noah noticed an older man standing away from the crowd in the shade, solemnly looking at the ground, with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. Noah tapped his friend’s shoulder and asked, “Presley, who is that guy, and why is he standing alone? He looks quite solemn.”

         Presley looked at the man and replied to Noah, “That guy is Mr. Holmes. He used to win this race very year! But rumor has it that the last year he won first place, a bad tragedy happened as a result of a fight he had gotten into with the mayor. He disappeared from town for a week. Ever since that week, he was shunned by the mayor, forbidden to ever compete in this great race again. Many town members won’t speak to him now. Anyway, I have to head home, I’ll catch you tomorrow, Noah!”

         Noah stood and observed Mr. Holmes, processing what Presley had told him. Noah decided to have Mr. Holmes over for tea and discover whether the rumor was true or not. As he approached Mr. Holmes, he noticed a single tear fall from his face. “Mr. Holmes, hello! My name is Noah, and I was wondering if you’d like to come over for tea?”

         Mr. Holmes cut his eyes, shocked that anyone had noticed him. Looking at Noah, he responded, “Thank you very much for the offer, young man. But I’m afraid I cannot join you today, maybe another time will work better.”

         Mr. Holmes grabbed his coat to leave as Noah responded, “Sir, if I could ask you one question, then?”

         Mr. Holmes paused and replied, “All right, go ahead. I suppose I have time for one question.”

         “Great,” Noah replied. “My friend told me you used to win this prestigious race every year, and that all the townspeople looked up to you as an inspiration to always do more and more each year. So, I was wondering how come you are standing here, all alone and off to the side in the shadows?”

         Mr. Holmes took a deep breath and gazed at the townspeople parading Mr. Merrit down the street. He turned towards Noah, and gestured for him to sit down with him.

“Noah,” Mr. Holmes started, “your friend was quite right in saying I used to take first place, ten consecutive years, as a matter of fact. But the last time I took first prize, that evening, something life-altering took place. I made it home, and I collapsed. A young lady that delivered my mail found me the next morning and took me to the hospital in the town next over. I had a near death experience from years of neglecting the rest my body needed.

         “You see, in such a quest of trying to keep doing more and maintaining the pride of my first-place position, I almost ran myself into my grave at the age of thirty. My week in the hospital granted me much time to ponder and process all of this, and when I was released, I immediately went to the mayor to petition that we shut down such a dangerous race. The mayor seen fit to shun me and my plea, however. He was so irate, in fact, he forbid me to participate ever again, and spread a rumor about the situation that remains to this day.

         “I tell you all of this to leave you with one point. Noah, you will be able to participate in this great race of Astir in two years when you turn eighteen, but I plead with you to not participate in the safety and health of your wellbeing. I learned the hard, dangerous way that while it is good and honorable to keep our hands busy, we must also find the time to rest when it is needed. It is better, rather than trying to do all things, that we do fewer things well. Noah, find those things most meaningful and fulfilling to you, and take pride and pleasure in pursuing those. Work diligently, but rest, and make sure to take care of yourself. There will only ever be one Noah granted on this planet, and Astir should be proud to have those that focus on doing fewer things intentionally, well, and with excellence, rather than parade those that neglect caring for themselves in pursuit of the town’s prestige and attention.”

         Noah nodded and was pleased with the answer Mr. Holmes provided. Thanking Mr. Holmes for his time and advice, he turned to go home. He made the decision not to participate in this great race, but to find the things he could do well, and vowed to take care of himself.

         “Noah,” Mr. Holmes called out, “I’ll take you up on the offer for tea sometime. Let me know when you’re available.”

         Noah nodded, smiled, and waved goodbye at Mr. Holmes as he started his journey home to ponder the thoughts Mr. Holmes had left him with.