During our State Poly Hockey Championships, which is one of our loudest and rowdiest competitions, I glanced at the Special Olympics athlete who is pictured here and was immediately taken back to some of my favorite moments growing up: Hitting a tennis ball against the garage door, dribbling a basketball in the church parking lot across the street, driving golf balls into the woods behind our house. All of these were uncomplicated, inexpensive, personal moments in sport that I enjoyed and that impacted me in a deep way.

In the Special Olympics movement, we talk a lot about the tangible benefits sport brings, including increased levels of self-confidence, improved physical fitness, and better developed social skills, just to name a few. However, rarely do we give mention to that which isn’t as visible, studied, or shared – the way sport can nourish the soul.

It’s not easy to write about one’s soul, especially in this context, but here’s my thoughts about it. For decades I have watched our athletes participate and wondered if God, through sport, may be providing them a space where they are free to experience themselves in a way of their own choosing. I think it is during those moments that the soul is nourished. It is during those moments IT IS WELL with them. It is in watching our athletes experience those moments we can feel inspired to invite more people to be a part of Special Olympics New Mexico.

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Guardians of the Flame

Last week New Mexico Law Enforcement Torch Run held the Guardians of the Flame State Conference, hosted by the Bernalillo County Fire Department. This was the fourth NMLETR State Conference, and in my opinion, this conference continues to grow in scope, size, and substance every year. The trainings offered were excellent, the meetings productive, the presentation of the Milestone Awards a celebration, and lastly, the Special Olympics New Mexico mission of helping to build inclusive communities – accomplished.

Any time I am connected to the Torch Run, I can’t help but reflect on the men and women in public safety who, in addition to the demands of their daily jobs, wear the title of Guardians of the Flame of Hope. The word guardian carries weight. The book of Psalms reads: “For He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways.” The role of a guardian is not to be taken lightly. If you look up the definition and personality traits of a guardian, you will read terms like protector, dependable, trustworthy, hardworking, and enthusiastic in behavior. We witness these characteristics and more when we engage with our Law Enforcement Torch Run public safety officers, as they leave their days and nights of emergency calls, crime, abuse, conflict, and everything else they face to stand with Special Olympics athletes and families.

Perhaps the fullness of who they are as they carry our Flame of Hope is best articulated in the oath they recite, which was created by Doyle Syling, retired Sgt. in the Alamogordo Police Department. This oath is shared at Special Olympics New Mexico competitions and events.

“As a Law Enforcement Torch Runner, I commit my talents, energy, love and compassion to the athletes and families of Special Olympics New Mexico. I will protect, defend, and befriend all those who seek the joy of Special Olympics sport, and I will always be a Guardian of the Flame of Hope.”

My thanks to each and every person who takes that oath to heart.

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Choosing Uphill

I think it’s interesting how the very end of one year and the start of another has a way of nudging us into deeper reflection of what was, followed by a sense of renewed optimism around what we hope will be. Inspired by author John Maxwell, this new year reminds me of his book on Uphill-Downhill living. Perhaps the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 is a good time for us to evaluate our lives as they are today. Since 2020, have we been stuck in a Downhill Slide – and if so – are we ready for an Uphill Climb? 

If you feel stuck, ask yourself:

  1. Downhill Slide of Repairing: How can I begin the Uphill Climb of Preparing?
  2. Downhill Slide of No Improvement: How can I commit to an Uphill Climb of Self-Improvement?
  3. Downhill Slide of Good Intentions: How can I change those intentions to the Uphill Climb of Intentional Actions?

When I look at Special Olympics New Mexico today, having endured a very different couple of years, it is my hope that in 2023 all of us will choose an Uphill Climb. We owe it to our athletes and to be honest, we owe it to ourselves to better prepare for the days ahead. We can focus on making improvements in our lives and the lives of those around us. Let’s stop overthinking what we should do and start doing the things that matter.

It is in the climb that we will find hope and celebration in 2023.

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Happy and Merry

It seems as though our attention right now is being drawn to Thanksgiving and Christmas – all in one fell swoop. Chances are if you walk into any store, you will see signs of both holidays. I can’t say for sure what I think about that, but I can say seeing reminders of both of these holidays shifts my focus off of myself and onto who and what matters most to me. My heart is filled with gratitude when I focus on those I’m thankful for.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays we celebrate this time of year are always better when we find ways to give to others from our heart and with our hands. Sending a card to someone who has made a difference in our life, making a call to a family member or friend we haven’t talked to in awhile, sharing a meal or a coffee–these are deeply connected to the Happy and Merry of this season.

This holiday season, I not only want to feel thankful, I am going to thank God more. A friend sent me an email the other day that said “If all you had today is what you thanked God for yesterday – what would you have?” As I thought about that, I realized I wouldn’t have had much that day, because my thank you list the day before was short.

I thank God for my health, for inviting me to join Him in the work I get to do, for giving me family and people who make my life better – that’s a lot to be thankful for. But most of all, I will thank Him today and tomorrow for reminding me that Happy and Merry isn’t about me at all, but about showing love for others. Should we choose to do that this season, may our hearts be full.

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The 2022 Four Corners Invitational was held August 19-20 in Farmington. Thankfully, our coaches, event volunteers, law enforcement officers, officials, families, and everyone who participated showed up visibly happy to be there. Our athletes worked hard and competed strong in Unified golf, swimming, Unified softball, and skills events. What really caught my attention over the weekend was the WAY our athletes competed.

My thoughts today are this: In almost every arena, all of us are taught to strive against the opposition in order to win. We are taught that to win, we must “defeat or establish superiority over others who are trying to do the same.” The origin of the word compete is the Latin word competere. Interestingly, its meaning is “to come together, to seek together, to strive together.” Don’t get me wrong, our athletes LOVE to win, but when they compete, I get the sense that perhaps more than the rest of us, they are striving together and seeking to make each other better. Special Olympics athletes easily and authentically celebrate each other’s accomplishments. I think they embody the gift of bringing out the best in every person.

Can you just imagine what it would look like if we all agreed that the goal of competition was to make each other better in the process of striving to win?

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