Some of my most enlightening moments happen when a Special Olympics athlete randomly walks into my office, plops down in a chair, and takes charge of my attention. Such would be the case last week, when one of our athletes shared his thoughts about the upcoming State Summer Games. “I love the Games, Wandy, because when I’m there, it is MY TIME TO SHINE!” Before I could ask him exactly what he meant by that he was out the door, leaving me with my own thoughts on the matter, which are as follows.
Most athletes shine when they excel at the sport they are playing. Special Olympics athletes shine by serving as a bright light to those around them. It is in that light that we as nondisabled people see and are seen more clearly.
If you come to Summer Games, you will see over 1,000 corporate volunteers, law enforcement officers, health care professionals, elementary, mid and high school students, civic and service organizations, military personnel, coaches and officials, unified partners, Board members, family members, and Special Olympics staff. The vast majority of us will take notice of the athletes and in their presence be kind, patient, compassionate, supportive -falling all over ourselves to ensure each athlete feels valued, respected, and loved. In doing so, our very souls will shine brighter.
The Special Olympics athletes on the other hand will take notice of all of us and the vast majority of them will simply be themselves. They will compete with courage, determination, joy, and celebration. They will be thankful, authentic, funny, and incredibly happy to be participating. They will shine with a light that never loses its luster, and in response to how wonderful everyone is treating them – their souls will shine brighter, as well.