Lexi Pham, a student at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Hapeville, was selected the fifth-grade grand national champion in the 32nd annual Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. That means Lexi had the best cursive handwriting among all the fifth-grade entries nationwide. Tens of thousands of students compete each year. It is quite an honor to win.
I read the story with fascination, partially because my handwriting has always been poor; hence, the headline. I was not talking about the content. I was talking about my handwriting! One reason I worked so hard at typing is because of my handwriting.
No matter how fast you type, it still looks the same. The faster I try to write by hand, the worse it gets. Every year, my teachers commented on my handwriting, and the comments never were positive. The day they stopped giving grades for penmanship was a great day for me.
As a local pastor, I send a lot of thank-you notes, and I handwrite each one. I’m sure I’ve strained the eyes of many church members. I can make it legible, but it takes a lot of time and effort. It never just happens on its own.
And that’s what really strikes me in all of this: how much handwriting is like life. It’s not something that just happens. It’s something that requires work, patience and discipline. Great athletes don’t just go out and perform. They train — hard. Great musicians spend hours practicing. People who excel at a task work to do so. I bet if you asked young Lexi whether she just showed up and wrote, she would tell you that she did not. She worked at it.
This also is true of faith. The New Testament says we are saved by grace through faith. This can happen in a moment, but learning to live as a person of faith takes a lifetime. It means day after day, month after month, year after year, we live a life dedicated to following in the steps of the one who saves us. We practice love, mercy and forgiveness. We worship, pray, study and fellowship regularly. It doesn’t just happen. We work at it.
I congratulate the young lady on her penmanship. She has accomplished something I never have and probably never will. But more than that, I am grateful to her for the reminder that excellence takes work. For all of us who seek to live lives of faith, we always can use reminders like that.
– Dr. David Campbell is the senior pastor at Due West United Methodist Church. He is a husband, father, grandfather and former Army chaplain. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Church website duewest.org.