There are some days that put life in perspective.
… a day when the weight of the world seems secondary… when we forget about the future consequences of today’s actions… some that will be good… some that will not… many of which are not discernible no matter how loud the proclamation of the passion…
… we forget those days the increasingly inimical polarization… the attitudes that boldly call opposition arrogant… forgetting that when we steadfastly announce the arrogance in others, we oft foreshadow the conceit in ourselves…
Hence, we are thankful for those days that put life in perspective — as yesterday was for me.
A couple hundred athletes.
A grandstand full of fans.
And vocal enthusiasm for absolutely every athlete — every adult and child — who crossed the finish line.
The first Special Olympics was held in 1968, after a Chicago P.E. teacher approached Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s sister, about funding an Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs. Today the competition provides opportunity for more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries, offering year-round training and competition in 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports. Yesterday was the track and field competition in our city.
Initially, I stood in quiet awe — witnessing the sustained, contagious cheers from the crowd regardless of placement, regardless of time necessary for individual completion. As the runners sprinted around the track — some stopping for breaks when necessary — I was touched by their ability, perseverance, and determination.
Better yet was the look on the faces of so many. Atypical of most competitions, a majority of participants sprinted and jumped with a countenance of great, great, obvious joy. It was amazing, and it, too, was contagious. (“All competitions should be that way,” I thought… for kids… adults… with or without a disability… sports, politics…)
A couple of quick personal notes…
First, I’m proud of my son. This parent cries more these days than I ever imagined. Thanks much in part to Josh, those cries are also full of joy.
Secondly, we owe significant thanks to the coaches and teachers who have walked alongside our Special Olympians. From each of us who is blessed to parent a special needs child, we are overwhelmingly thankful for those who selflessly invest in our kids, encouraging both them and us along the way.
Yet perhaps the most poignant perspective of the day was offered by one teenage runner. She had great form, solid strides, and was swift around the track. As she ran an entire 400 meters, the crowd seemed well aware of the amazing accomplishment. She was good! She was fast. The 14-15 year old girl was accompanied by another gal, to whom she was loosely tethered. But in her we were each reminded of the beauty of these games — and the meaning of the moment…
As their mission says, the Special Olympics gives athletes “continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.” Such was obvious in this one, young runner.
She strode around the track with speed, grace, and that unprecedented joy, anchoring her team’s relay. Each of us watching paused — clapped — amazed.
She was blind.