A few days ago we celebrated the life of Special Olympics San Juan County athlete Marilyn Antonio. She died unexpectly of a heart attack. One of her teammates, Ryan Hanson, and her foster brother gave the eulogy. Their words spoke beautifully of Marilyn’s life and a unique gift she used often – the gift of bringing people together regardless of ethnicity, age, or walk of life.
The same day I attended Marilyn’s funeral, I also participated in a summer school class at the Albuquerque Academy, where four of our Special Olympics athletes gave short presentations on the word “retarded.” Marla Gavurnik shared these words with the class. “Mental retardation causes me to learn, to communicate, to understand things, and to take care of myself at a slower pace.”
When I laid my head down that night, I gave thought to the fullness of the day and what I had learned. Like Marilyn, we won’t get to choose when we leave this earth, but her life was a good reminder that we do have control of what contribution we will make to each day. Our God-given gifts will only make a difference to those around us if like Marilyn did, we share them.
And, although I didn’t come into this world diagnosed with mental retardation like Marla, her words spoke to a need that I think many of us have felt lately – the need to roll at a slower pace, so we are able to do a better job of learning, communicating, understanding, and taking care of ourselves.
The new Special Olympics marketing communication campaign is Be A Fan. At the end of this day, I was fully a fan of inspiration, but even more, a huge fan of the two who had inspired me.