Special Olympics

Savannah and I pulled up to the bowling alley early.  It was cold and windy as I lowered her from the van and parked her on its leeward side.

Once inside, I realized just how early we were.  Only the organizers, a few parents, teachers, and athletes from far flung destinations had arrived.

"Let's go for a walk."

I pushed Savannah's wheelchair the length of the bowling alley.  We turned at the banquet hall and strolled the opposite way.  We U-turned in the arcade.  A boy with Down's Syndrome paced among the video games with an iPod, eyes closed, nodding his head in time with his music.  He looked like any other athlete psyching himself up.

image of Special Olympics medals hanging from a feeding pole
A Bronze and Gold Medal for bowling
Teams gathered around various tables.  They wore matching shirts.  I saw teams from Round Rock and San Marcos.  I saw teams from the hill country, such as Johnson City.  The Austin coach said there were more than thirty teams from as far away as Columbus.

As Savannah and I strolled through the gathering crowd, I couldn't help but marvel at how much effort, how much caring, how much humanity goes into the Special Olympics.

When I let myself watch television (which I am loath to do), I think that humanity is lost.  We are petty and cruel.  The daily squawk of talking heads reminds us of our failings: Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, etc., show us streaming images of how destructive we are.  Their commentators tell us how stupid, dead-eyed, incompetent, and animal-like our political opponents are.  The story, relentlessly told in every 24-hour cycle, is the story of senseless murder, government failures, and natural disaster. We have lost the long view, we have lost our attachment to meaning, and our faith in each other.  The news reinforces how we excel at gratifying our basest instincts and our incredible inventiveness and creativity when it comes to hurting one another out of greed and spite.

But then I see something like this... and it reminds me to turn off the rants, and grown men acting like children.  Turn off the hate, the vitriol, and the greed that feeds on our souls, so a select few can become insanely rich.  I see these children in colorful team shirts, smiling, sitting and talking like any other children awaiting a sporting event.  They are excited, nervous, full of joy and camaraderie.  The only difference is that some of these kids have deformities, or limps, or neurological challenges.  They need extra help or guidance.  Some of them, like Savannah, need adaptive equipment and special assistance.

Her Special Olympics event is bowling.  And to look at her, you would never know she could participate, but through the kindness of volunteers and school staff, she can participate, she can play like other children.

The bowling alley grew so crowded that we could barely maneuver.  How could so many people care about these forgotten and marginalized children?  The children for whom multi-million dollar football stadiums are NOT constructed, children whose parking spaces are stolen by lazy shoppers, and whose life sustaining benefits are cut by wealthy politicians.  I thought we were a doomed species?  If that is so, where did these people come from?  Are they members of a subversive, underground movement or a silent majority?

Savannah smiled at the commotion.  She is far more social than me.  She loves people, she has faith in them, and in return, they love her.

Her school coach beamed when she saw Savannah in the crowd.  She reached down to touch her arm, "Are you going to win a medal today, Savannah?"

Savannah smiled in response.

"Let's go get your team shirt."

They went off into the crush of people, accompanied by a teacher's aide.  I watched her roll to her team's table and I was as proud of her as her able-bodied sister when she plays a sport.  But I was also proud to be human, and know that the stories we tell ourselves through the media, though factual, are not always true.

This story is the truth about humanity.

Thank you Special Olympics.  You are the story of us.

#specialolympics #disabiliity #specialneeds #parenting #inspiration #hope


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