I have no idea who Zachary Haugland is. He is not someone you would know because he is not a “mover and a shaker.” He has not made the headlines as someone who has altered the events of all humanity and neither is he some kid who finds it difficult to avoid the police. No, Zachary is none of that but his name appeared recently on a Fox news website. On October 22, 2015 this young man who runs cross country track for his high school literally destroyed his competition. He crossed the finish line and into the record books as the Davis County High Schools first district champion. He was excited and he and his coach exchanged congratulatory high fives.
It was during the celebration that Zachary turned around and saw a competitor in trouble. His face was turning white and he was holding his chest and looked about to fall.
Young Zachary shouted for other runners to help him but no one would. Without giving it another thought Zach ran to the young man and put his arm around Garret Hinson, and helped him to the finish line. As they neared the finish of the race, Zach let him go so his rival could finish the race.
We all find stories like that heart warming and we are encouraged that there are teens in our world who will reach out to someone who is struggling. However, as heart warming as that story is, you need to know the
rest of the story. Zach’s actions did not come without a cost. According to the rules of the Iowa high school athletic association, a competitor who receives or gives assistance, is disqualified. Thus, someone else was declared the winner and no amount of outrage expressed by the community would change the decision. “Rules are rules” was the associations response. Zach said he was very disappointed by their decision because he had worked all summer training for the event. However, he said, if he could do it all over again, he would. They could strip him of his victory but they could not take away his character or his courage.
Two things come to mind. First, we need more of this young man’s spirit in our world. People who recognize
someone needs help and will come along side of them and encourage them. Second, rules are important. However, as Jesus once said “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Sometimes, we have to set aside the rule so mercy can be extended.
As we run the race (Hebrews 12:1, 2) let us not forget those who are running with us. They may need help.