“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriver spoke these words at the opening ceremony of the very first Special Olympics in July of 1968 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The words eventually became the official motto of the Special Olympics and is duly recited at each event by eager athletes ready to compete.
I had the privilege of attending such an event today at the Special Olympics Southern California County Regional Fall Games. The day was hot, too hot to be playing outside, much less competing in rigorous sport and I was worried this would dampen enthusiasm or worse, cause medical issues. Boy, was I mistaken, as these athletes were here to play and certainly weren’t going to let a little heat stand in their way!
Some takeaways from this spectacular day:
People are people regardless of mental or physical disabilities. We all want to be acknowledged and treated with dignity and fairness.
Those that might be considered “different” don’t want special treatment, just a shot at doing things many of us take for granted. They might need certain accommodations or a helping hand, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t like everyone else when it comes to competition. They like to win.
There is a certain character trait shared by many who have faced hardship and which I saw in abundance in the athletes and families I interacted with. It’s a calm joy that exudes outward and that comes from having learned long ago that circumstances don’t define a person and that the ability to choose your attitude is the secret to life.
We are all considered equal in God’s eyes, each stamped with our own unique qualities. We ALL have value through Him, none more than the other, regardless how our brains may work or our bodies move.
The most touching moment for me was when the National Anthem was played. As usual, I teared up as those memorable words were sung and I looked out over a sea of people beaming with pride. Most were standing, some seated in wheelchairs and many with hands held over hearts. Not one downed knee among the crowd, no surprise there.