As we draw closer to the Thanksgiving holiday and the weekend that follows – I am inviting you to participate in a worthy assignment – on gratitude. Before reading the instructions – consider what research has shown.
- Gratitude helps us feel better about our life and can actually strengthen our relationships by helping us appreciate not only the what we are thankful for, but who we are thankful for and WHY.
- Gratitude steers us away from bitterness and discouragement, as it protects us from allowing our lives to be defined by what we DON’T have.
- Making gratitude a “family practice” helps everyone (especially the kiddos) learn to appreciate not only the big things in life, but the little ones, as well.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to grab a piece of paper and a writing utensil of choice, go to a place where you can be alone for a while, and list four things you are truly thankful for. Doing this will not only put you “in the moment” by taking you away from all the distractions in your daily life – it will force you to think deeper about a person, a circumstance, or something that blesses you.
Writing these four things down will immediately connect you to whatever is on your list. It will bring you happiness to remember and to recognize the place those things hold in your life. Reacting to whatever you are thankful for is one thing – we do it all the time by saying a quick “thanks” … but this assignment just may encourage you to respond to who or what those four things are in a more meaningful and thoughtful way. Showing your gratitude is a gift in itself and something our world needs more of.
As for me – I believe God has blessed me in ways I give little thought to – so I am going to take some time over the next few days and before writing my four – I’m going to really think about what they are. It is my hope that this assignment finds its way to a few of you, as well, but if not – to all of you – a very Happy Thanksgiving.
A couple weekends ago Special Olympics New Mexico traveled to Las Cruces for our 2017 Holiday Classic (basketball, bowling, and team bocce competition). As sometimes happens in an organization that relies heavily on volunteers – things don’t always work out as planned. This year, we arrived at the gym to find out we were short of basketball officials. What also happens in organizations that rely on volunteers – we figure out in a hurry how to remedy the situations we face.
Because I spent a good number of years playing, coaching, and yes, even officiating the game, I borrowed a whistle and ended up calling four games … in a row. I wasn’t dressed appropriately, was far from being at a level of physical condition to run the court like I needed to, and truth be told, the thought of making a really bad call made me a little hesitant. I did manage, however, to survive all four games, and these are the thoughts that have remained with me.
No matter who you are, how old you are, how much experience you have had, what your ability level is – when you become a part of sport – you become immersed in the moments sport brings. You assume your role of player, coach, official, fan – and for however long your game goes on – everything else in your life goes away. It’s what sport does that requires nothing of us. The cares, the worries, the circumstances – sport takes them away.
When I stepped onto the court and put the whistle in my mouth – I was back in an element that brought joy to my heart. For four games – what mattered was what was happening in front of me. It is with that thought in mind that reaching more Special Olympics athletes, coaches, unified partners, officials, and fans brings even a greater sense of importance. After all, we could ALL use a little more joy in our lives, and we could ALL use a healthy way to rid ourselves of those things that take up too much space in our head. Thank you Special Olympics basketball. Sorry for any bad calls, but at the end of the day – I loved being a part of it.
Last week the Chairman of our Board of Directors, a couple of my staff, and I went to Los Alamos. One of our Special Olympics families hosted a Mission Tour in their home. For those who aren’t familiar with these, it’s a gathering to educate people about the work of Special Olympics New Mexico. The goal is that those in attendance will be inspired enough to become engaged in our movement.
At the end of the Tour, the Dad
shared how Special Olympics has impacted not only his daughter who is an athlete, but his entire family, as well. It was a very emotional story, and as we all sat there with tears in our eyes, one of his last sentences was “I just can’t imagine what our lives would be like without our daughter and her friends.” Without missing a beat one of the Special Olympics athletes who was there shouted out “BORING.”
We all laughed at his response, but truthfully, since that evening, I’ve been giving what he said a lot of thought. The definition of boring is “dull, monotonous, unimaginative, and uneventful.” If I didn’t have Special Olympics in my life – if I didn’t have Special Olympics athletes in my life – I wonder. What stories would I have to tell? Who would my friends be? How would I spend the vast majority of my weekends? Would I see the world through different eyes? Would I seek the value of every human being? Would I thank God every night for things I so easily take for granted? Would I laugh as loud or as often?
Thank you Special Olympics and Special Olympics athletes. You have made my life everything but boring, and it is my hope you will continue to do the same for many more who have yet to meet you.
Last Friday at our Board of Directors meeting, the Board and staff surprised me by celebrating my twenty-five years as the Executive Director of Special Olympics New Mexico. The celebration was humbling, heart-warming, and very thoughtful.
For the past 25 years it truly has been a privilege to serve our athletes and work along side many wonderful people, who have had a profound impact on our organization, and on my life, as well. As an athlete and a coach from years ago, I have shared repeatedly from personal experience that playing the game of your life is great, but over the years you tend to forget the plays, the score, the celebration – however, never do you forget those that you have played with. I have been richly blessed. Thank you Special Olympics New Mexico.
After the meeting, I rummaged through my files and found some things from that first year on the job. My intent today is to share with you my thoughts from all those years ago – a page from one of our first publications. And with it, just for fun – a staff photo for all of you “old-timers.”
Two weekends ago I attended our 2017 State Equestrian Competition in Clovis. This is one of SONM’s sports that unless you see it, you simply can’t grasp how intriguing it is. The indoor arena is spectacular – the tournament director, announcer, and judge all seem strangely “connected” at the hip – and the coaches and horse handlers are not only knowledgeable, but thoroughly present and in the moment for the entire two days. The competition is nothing less than precisely orchestrated and absolutely unpredictable all in the same breath.
As a spectator, you can sit in the stands and watch all of the moving parts – OR, you can do yourself a favor and zero in on the athletes when they ride. Unlike other sports, not only do these athletes have to focus on their skills, but they have to focus on the animal they are riding – who are not only huge in stature, but tend to have a mind of their own. As much as these riders train and rehearse what their coaches have passed on to them, it becomes apparent that in this sport – some things just can’t be taught.
What I have learned to appreciate about the culture of this competition is this. As spectators, we support each and every competitor. We hold our breath, whisper words of encouragement, and cheer with admiration (and sometimes relief) once each athlete completes their ride. As for the Special Olympics athletes – those who bravely climb into those saddles time and time again – they find out who they truly are while riding these magnificent and temperamental animals. They find out that as athletes, they are nothing short of amazing.
This past weekend at our Four Corners Invitational in Farmington, 1,126 Special Olympics athletes, coaches, and unified partners competed in unified golf, unified softball, and aquatics. As usual, as I walked around our Games I was mindful of our Core Values and how they were showing up. These five values guide our decisions, our conduct and behavior, and represent how we go about our work. They aren’t simply a document we created years ago to place on the shelf. They matter. They define us.
The value that kept appearing in front of my face throughout the weekend was Unbelievable Fun, which is reflected by our capacity to “Enjoy the excitement, enthusiasm, spontaneity, and laughter inherent in the Special Olympics experience.”
Maybe because organizationally things have been a little more challenging as of late, or maybe it’s because all of our hearts have been breaking watching those who have fallen victim to Harvey’s wrath. I’m not really sure what it was, but this last weekend Special Olympics New Mexico LAUGHED A LOT, and WE HAD FUN!
It was wonderful.
Want to see more 2017 Four Corners Invitational photos? Click HERE to visit our SONM photo gallery on Flickr.