Belonging

Lately, I have been more aware of our athletes’ presence in their respective communities around our state. Facebook allows me to know what our athletes are up to, and I love seeing how they are engaged in the world. Special Olympics is intentional about building athlete engagement through Unified Sports programs.

Special Olympics works hard to partner people with intellectual disabilities and those without, as they train and compete together on the same team. The program is called Unified Sports. Special Olympics New Mexico offers competition in unified golf, unified bocce, unified volleyball, unified softball, unified bowling, unified flag football, and unified track and aquatics relays. We are also building our Unified Champion Schools programs statewide. This program offers unified sports to students during the school day and in 2017, twenty-nine New Mexico schools participated. Statistics show that 86% of the school staff felt like the program made a big impact on reducing bullying and teasing in their schools, and 84% of the students regarded the experience as a positive turning point in their lives.

Inclusion does this – it leads to BELONGING.  When we feel like we don’t belong somewhere, we aren’t free to be who we are.  If you have not experienced that feeling before, be thankful, because it’s terrible.  When people are made to feel they belong, it’s a whole different story.  It’s not about simply being included; it’s about knowing that when you’re not there you are sorely missed.  If you have experienced BELONGING, be thankful, because it’s wonderful.

People with intellectual disabilities have been blessed with certain gifts that can only be appreciated by hanging out with them, including them, inviting them. Truth is, we all belong here. When we realize that, “HERE” is a much better place.

 

 

 

 

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Perseverance

As most of you who are reading this know, a good number of our State Senators and Legislators are talking about Special Olympics New Mexico right now.  Yesterday, I spent the day at the Round House, meeting those men and women who represent our State Government. I want to share with you how much more today I appreciate what they do.  Yesterday, our government officials were more than willing to talk with us.  They were attentive to why we were there, and they were engaged.

As far as what we have gone through since the elimination of our contract with the Department of Health – I was reminded of something while reading the Book of James this morning.   It starts out “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance …”  Instead of the word endurance, some versions use the word patience, perseverance, or steadfastness.

In my opinion, we have endured through this trial, and as far as counting it as “JOY” – well, we certainly have learned a great deal from it.  Literally thousands of people in our state are now more aware of the depth of our work and the athletes we serve.  And, as far as our elected officials are concerned, I am hoping they recognize our work as relevant and vital to the communities they represent.  Our organization has learned where our strengths lie, how many more people are impacted by what we do, and how important it is to articulate our work in a different way to different audiences.  For all of those things – I am counting it joy.

 

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Moving Forward

Since returning from the Holidays, the question that has been following me every wherekob I go is “Did you raise enough money to replace the $310,000 that you lost?”  My answer to that question – “No, we did not.”  That answer is usually followed by this question- “So now what is going to happen?”

Before heading down that path, I want to first of all direct my thoughts to the many, many people who made contributions to help Special Olympics New Mexico fill our revenue gap.  Whether you supported us through the ONE UP CAMPAIGN, went to our website and clicked on the “Donate Today” button, sent us a check, or sent an email or note with words of encouragement – THANK YOU very, very, very, much.  Every act brought and continues to bring a depth of gratitude.

We were able to lessen the gap, but not enough to avoid having to make hard decisions moving forward.  The Special Olympics New Mexico Board of Directors passed a deficit budget for 2018 – which in part included having to raise team registration fees for State Competitions, eliminating some meals and other things at our Games, but perhaps the decision that has drawn the most attention is that Special Olympics New Mexico will not be sending a team to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.  Not an easy decision for sure, and not easy being the only state who won’t be competing, but this decision  impacted the least amount of our athletes.

The truth today is this – none of us know what will happen in 2018, but we are moving forward with a tremendous amount of HOPE – trusting the God of our Games, who has always been faithful.  Please keep Special Olympics New Mexico in your prayers.  We are deeply grateful for all of you who stand with us striving to win, remaining  brave in the attempt, and loving and valuing the lives of our athletes more than ever.

Click on the link to watch KOB News 4’s story: http://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/after-losing-funding-new-mexico-unable-to-send-athletes-to-national-special-olympics/4732841/

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The Season

It is that time of the year, again.  Thanksgiving dinner ends and the majority of us downchristmas-star shift into a holiday season that represents our religious beliefs, cultural preferences, and presents.   For me – it’s Christmas.  For many of my friends – it’s Hanukkah.  For a few other of my friends – it’s Kwanzaa.

I can only speak from personal experience – but this is always the “busiest” season of each year.  Parties, shopping, family gatherings, decorating, baking, school programs, travel, TV specials, church services – all of these wrapped into about 30 days at 100 miles per hour.  It’s wonderful, exhausting and at times – a tad stressful.

The other morning on my way to work, I was starting to feel that stressful thing – and a song came over the radio that I hadn’t heard before.  At first, I half-listened to the song, but as the melody went on, I fully listened to what the artist was singing.  The chorus was catchy and the words were as follows –

“I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night.”

The song stilled me, as I was reminded of the reason I celebrate Christmas.  It also reminded me that unless I am intentional – having silent nights and those important holy nights probably won’t happen.  Here’s my thoughts about that.  No matter what you believe to be truth – the reason you will be celebrating – silent nights and holy nights are purposefully meant to replenish our soul.  They are important to our well-being.  They have the power to fill empty spaces in our lives, so that we can fill the empty spaces in other peoples’ lives.  They put meaning into our Holiday and into our hearts.

Need a silent night?

Video Link: I Need a Silent Night Amy Grant

 

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Assignment

As we draw closer to the Thanksgiving holiday and the weekend that follows – I amIMG_0398 inviting you to participate in a worthy assignment – on gratitude.  Before reading the instructions – consider what research has shown.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Got Game?

A couple weekends ago Special Olympics New Mexico traveled to Las Cruces for our stainless-steel-referee-s-whistle-personalised-ref-rw02-4567-p2017 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.

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Boring

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

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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.

 

 

 

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