A strange place for lessons in grace

Published 8:17 pm Saturday, March 22, 2014

Yesterday, 41 children from across eastern North Carolina arrived at the Washington High School auditorium determined to out-spell the competition — and there was some stiff competition.

Three hours and 20 rounds later, the victor emerged, as did the second- and third-place winners. There were, of course, many who left feeling disappointed that they hadn’t made it to those final rounds.

But earlier in the day, both Daily News Publisher Ashley Vansant and emcee Bartow Houston both stressed the point that just by virtue of being in the regional bee, each and every one of those young people were winners. As a group, they were given a round of applause from supportive friends and family; each was given another as they were introduced before spelling their first word.

It was, overall, a supportive, positive experience for those children. It was a little lesson in competition, in pressure, in putting their best effort forward, in rising to the challenge of scholastic rivalry. But there was also more to it.

Just days ago, Duke’s Coach K left the Mercer locker room speechless after he stepped in to congratulate the team for their surprising win against Duke. His actions left the sports world astounded. The word used most often to describe the event — classy.

A spelling bee may, ultimately, be about who can spell the most words correctly, but it also imparts a valuable life lesson: we can’t all be winners, all the time. Losing gracefully, with kind words for those who’ve won, is the epitome of class. Losing gracefully and finding ways to become better, instills a determination to succeed.

Winning gracefully is an equally important lesson. This year’s spelling bee first- and second-place winners were both repeats: they each placed in the same order as last year. But this year, the first-place winner, who had received the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary — a $100 value — for her previous win, gave this year’s dictionary prize to the second-place winner. She did it without hesitation, without asking her parents, and she made the day of a boy who’d been her biggest competition for two years running.

Ultimately, the Downeast North Carolina Regional Spelling Bee is training ground for lessons in grace, lessons that will serve each of those children through their lives. We, at the Daily News, continue to be proud sponsors of this event.

PotashCorp-Aurora is co-sponsor for the Downeast North Carolina Regional Spelling Bee.