A couple of weeks ago a friend and mother of one of our Special Olympics athletes posted on Facebook that one of the athletes in her delegation had recently been hospitalized, moved from his apartment, and put into a nursing home. She ended the post by writing “keep him in your prayers and remember – for some of our athletes, we are all they have.” Those words stilled my heart and have stayed with me.
I don’t often think about the fact that there are a good many of our adult athletes, who twenty-five years ago grew up living in institutions, from there were moved into group homes, and now have “paid staff” that make decisions about if they leave the group home, when they leave the group home, and where they go once they do leave the group home. I’m not here to make judgments about group home staff and their commitment to our population, but I do give thought to what it would feel like to have the quality of my life dependent on someone else’s choices – someone who is with me because they are being paid to be with me.
My thought today is this – the work of Special Olympics goes much deeper than the mission of creating opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to train and compete in sports. Practice twice a week, team bus rides, out-of-town competitions, awards banquets, pizza parties in the hotel, victory dances, staying up late talking, and hanging out with people who care about who you are and how you are has everything to do with the urgency of finding those who have no one and have no idea Special Olympics even exists.
Think about someone in your town, possibly living in your neighborhood, who is actively involved and has life-enhancing opportunities – and then think about someone who does not. Your support could mean the difference. You too might be all they have.