“I Do Miss My Life”

The other day one of our athletes shared a “1 year ago – See Your Memories” post on Facebook that said: “Hockey practice today did feel amazing. It is awesome to be with my team again.” That was posted in January 2020, and under the memory post he wrote “I do miss my life. I do.”

The longer we’ve been apart from our Special Olympics athletes and friends, I have been feeling like I do miss my life, too. Special Olympics has given me really good friends, a much fuller and more meaningful life, and a greater love not just for some people, but for all people.

My thoughts today are driven by how much I miss in-person connection at Special Olympics, and how I look forward to when SONM can return to play in the future. There are days I miss being with our athletes at our Games so much I could just scream. There are days that I do scream. On the days that I feel I just can’t cope with not being together one minute longer, rather than try to bury my emotions, I find myself doing one of two things. I pull out photos of past Special Olympics competitions and take time to not just look at them, but STUDY them. I start to notice things in those photos I may never have noticed before, and it doesn’t take long for my heart to feel good again. If I’m not looking at photos, I make time to text an athlete, direct message an athlete on Facebook, or better yet, I call an athlete. Their voice alone does the trick and within a matter of minutes I am laughing, and I am thankful.

Remembering the joy at Special Olympics Games pre-covid helps put my mind at ease, and gives me hope for in-person return to play at SONM in the future. As you look at the slideshow photos from past SONM competitions, I hope they bring you joy and hope.

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‘Tis the Season

Yesterday, I went to get my mail and started thumbing through the pile–the bills, the grocery store promos, and the junk mail–and there it was, a handwritten envelope with my name on it. My first Christmas card of the year. I have to tell you, as I read the printed message on the card along with the few sentences my dear friend had written, each word seemingly went straight to my heart. We may be living in a digital world, but with everything that we have been through in 2020, my thoughts today are this: Perhaps more than ever, sending and receiving handwritten Christmas cards may bring a special sense of connection that we might need this year.

I did some research. Christmas cards began in England in 1843, when Sir Henry Cole set up the first post office.  As a way to attract the general public, he and an artist friend designed a Christmas card and sold them for one shilling (about eight cents).  A few years later, Christmas cards started to appear in the United States. Most had pictures of the Nativity on them.  At first, the cards were pricey, but in the spirit of American entrepreneurism, in 1915 three brothers with the last name of Hallmark got together and the rest is history.

Christmas cards have always been important to my family.  I have memories of sitting with my mother every year–a basket of cards on her lap–and going through each card together as she read what was written and shared stories of the sender.  My aunt always displayed her Christmas cards on the fireplace mantle, and when she ran out of room she taped them around the doorways, pointing out the cards that meant the most to her. Again, there were stories of the sender. Even today, I have a shoebox of Christmas cards that family and friends have sent to me over the years. Admittedly, I haven’t done the best job carrying on that family tradition as I always seem to be running out of time. Most often, when I do send cards, I rarely make the time to write a personal message.

I’ve decided that this year will be different. I hope that those who receive a card from me will not only be reminded of how much I love and care about them, but that they will also be reminded of the love God intends for each one of us–the true meaning of Christmas.

In closing, though you may not receive a card from me, I want to wish every Special Olympics New Mexico athlete, coach, family member, volunteer, and community partner a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy Hanukkah. May your hearts be filled with hope for the next time we can safely be together.

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Thankful Then, Thankful Now

Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded of our history. Since we are nearing Thanksgiving, I have been thinking back to what I was taught in elementary school about the 1600’s, when the very first Thanksgiving dinner took place.

The Mayflower sailed from England on September 6, 1620, carrying 102 passengers and 30 crew members. This group of people endured the 2 month, unknown journey across the ocean, landing in and eventually founding Plymouth Colony. The group strived to survive diseases and a tough winter, and survivors attended the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621. Joining the pilgrims for the historic first Thanksgiving meal were nearly 90 members of the Wampanoag Tribe, who were at the end of their harvest season and in the area visiting other tribes. It wasn’t until two hundred years later that President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as our national Thanksgiving holiday.

My thoughts today are focused on similarities from back then that are relatable now, and perhaps worth considering. In 1863, President Lincoln named Thanksgiving as a holiday in an attempt to heal a divided nation, where families (father against son and brother against brother) found themselves fighting against each other during the Civil War.

With that in mind, during this holiday season and beyond, I hope we don’t allow conflict and disagreements to divide our families and friends. Despite our collective differences, I hope we instead focus on similarities that make us “family” in the first place. It is my hope that this season, as challenging as 2020 has been for each of us, we focus on gratitude for what we have and often take for granted. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” That alone may have made the Thanksgiving of then and now, better.

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To ALL Special Olympics Athletes

Thank you. Thank you for your KINDNESS.

The dictionary defines kindness as ‘the virtue of showing love, often in the face of obstacles.’ We haven’t been able to see many of our Special Olympics athletes in person the past few months, but I know that if they were the ones behind the microphones, writing the articles, in front of the TV cameras, leading the rallies, Special Olympics athletes would be showing us that no matter what- kindness can change EVERYTHING.

Stressed? Kindness can lessen your worries.
Hurting? Kindness can heal the wound.
Angry or frustrated? Kindness can better the mood.
Anxious? Kindness can help you relax.
Sad or lonely? Kindness will bring happiness to your heart.

Why do I think Special Olympics athletes can lead the way in showing kindness? They have earned the right. Through the isolation they have lived, they offer friendship. Through the judgments and prejudice placed on them, they teach acceptance. And through the cruelty they have endured, they continue to show kindness.

Through watching, experiencing, and knowing Special Olympics athletes- if we join them in kindness- we can change everything.

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The other day I made a thank you call to one of our donors who lives in Santa Fe. Marilyn and I had never spoken to each other before, but now I’m sure we will speak again. Her instructive words made an impression on me.

I started our conversation by thanking her for her continued support of Special Olympics New Mexico and in the same breath, rolled right into asking her how she was doing during these very different times. Her response was “I’m doing fine and Randy, just remember we have to take care of ourselves right now, so we can help take care of others.”

I then shared with her that we have transitioned into offering our athletes Virtual Games to keep them engaged and in motion. I explained what the Games were, how they worked, and how at the end, each athlete who participated would receive a Virtual Games certificate, medal, and t-shirt. Her response to that was “Well, I have always found praise and appreciation for what people accomplish to be very important.”

I also shared with her that even though I hadn’t been able to see our athletes in person, how much it’s meant to be able to talk with them on the phone. Her response to that was “To be seen and to be heard is important to everyone.”

My thoughts today are this: After my conversation with Marilyn I think we can each benefit from asking ourselves the following questions, reflecting, and taking action.

  1. What have I been doing to take care of myself lately, so I can continue to take care of others in my life?” 
  2. Who have I, or more importantly, who have I not shown praise and appreciation for lately that may be really happy to receive it?
  3. Who haven’t I visited with or taken time to call and truly listen to in a while?

Before we hung up, Marilyn shared that she was a teacher, and in my opinion, a very good one.

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