A couple weekends ago at one of our Special Olympics bowling competitions I was talking with a volunteer who had never seen our athletes bowl before. I asked him what he thought and his answer was immediate – “Boy, they are really in their element here.” I didn’t have to wonder what he meant.
To fully appreciate being in your element, you have to consider what it’s like when you are not. My first prom was a great personal example. My mom took me to a salon to have my hair done. I left looking like someone else. I had to buy high heels – which required a balancing act just to walk. This was not normal for me. And – I had to find a long dress – one that went all the way to my ankles. By the time my date and I got to the dance, I had already figured out that the chances of moving my entire body to a fast paced beat without my hair falling, my ankles breaking, and my legs getting tangled was probably slim to none. As we walked into the prom – I remember feeling like a duck out of water. I felt uncomfortable and didn’t really want to be there.
On the flip side – being in one’s “element” can be one of the best things, ever. Doing something you like to do in an environment that suits you can lead to all kinds of possibilities. Just like anyone else, when our Special Olympics athletes are in that situation – they are wildly happy and actually captivating in their own unique way. Considering the way most of them go through life – teased, not included, and over-all undervalued – how great is it that Special Olympics exists.