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In the way

About a month ago I hosted a lunch for a group of men and women, as thanks for their prayer for our organization last year as we faced financial challenges and difficult decisions.  When we finished eating our lunch, I asked each of them to share whatever was on their mind.  One of the guys said this: “God wants us to be mighty in spirit, but for most of us, unlike Special Olympics athletes, our head gets in the way of our heart.”  I have contemplated those words many times over the last month and here are my thoughts.

In today’s world people hear the term ‘the sky is the limit.’ Life can seem all about what limits we can push, what we can seek out and achieve.  People strive to stay in control, of their jobs and of their lives.  People set goals, seek to achieve them, constantly seeking success. People continually ask themselves, “what’s next?”  At times, we all become too involved and caught up in long-term goals and success, and forget to enjoy the moment.  I wonder how that’s really working for all of us?

On the flip side – whenever I spend time with our athletes – I see something different.  Our athletes are joyful and fully in the moment.  They are truly happy to be with others, and thankful for the opportunity to simply be included and participate in a given activity at a given time.  The majority of our athletes have very little control over anything, yet they possess a mighty spirit – an inviting spirit that allows them to lead with their heart.  You can’t help but see it in them, and you can’t help but find it refreshing.

Our heads can get in the way of our hearts, so we can all learn a thing or two from our athletes. Be in the moment. Find joy. Find heart.

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State Summer Games

 

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There’s always a lot to take in at our State Summer Games, but much of it doesn’t really sink in until weeks after the Games are over.  This year my lingering Thoughts have been largely wrapped around the Opening Ceremonies.  They felt different to me this year, and after listening to many who were there – they felt different to a lot of people.  Putting a finger on that difference took awhile, but a Board member nailed it when he said it was the CONTENT that made this year’s Opening Ceremonies different.

Our Opening Ceremonies is much the same year after year, but this year there were two messages that affected all of us in a deeper and more thoughtful way.  These messages continue to replay in my mind.  1) Rebecca Latham, Cabinet Secretary of New Mexico Tourism, announced that the $300,000 contract with the Department of Health we lost in 2017 would be re-instated in July of 2018 under Tourism’s NEW MEXICO TRUE.  What a celebration her announcement was and what an impact it will have on our organization in the coming year.  We are unbelievably grateful.  2)  Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics.  As I shared Mrs. Shriver’s powerful words of long ago, all I could think about was the millions and millions of lives that have been significantly changed through the meaningful relationships formed because of the Special Olympics movement.  Mrs. Shriver’s vision has touched the entire world, with the Special Olympics movement growing from 1000 athletes in 1968 to over 5 MILLION athletes from around the world today.

As we honored two of our own Special Olympics athletes that night for competing in the very first Special Olympics New Mexico Games, my heart broke for what people with intellectual disabilities endured back then.  At the same time, my heart was full as I looked at the joy in these two athlete’s faces and then out into the stadium bleachers at the faces of our athletes of today.

We celebrated the past and present at our 2018 Opening Ceremonies and should you be reading these Thoughts now, it is my hope that you feel compelled to join us in some way in making sure a world of true acceptance, inclusion and belonging is what Special Olympics will celebrate throughout the next 50 years!

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Celebrating the 50th

This year the Special Olympics New Mexico State Summer Games theme is “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics.”  It’s hard to believe that fifty years ago Eunice Kennedy Shriver ushered 1,000 Special Olympics athletes into Soldier Field in Chicago to compete in the first Special Olympics International Games. Athletes were represented from three countries, and the competition changed the lives of people with intellectual disabilities forever.  In fact, that day has been described as the day that “released an entire population from a prison of ignorance and misunderstanding.”  It’s hard to believe that today, over FIVE MILLION Special Olympics athletes from more than 180 countries are training, competing, and continuing to serve as champions of change.

Like all anniversaries, this anniversary invites us to leave our daily routine and re-live and reflect on the foundational year of 1968. This year deserves celebration because it changed the way we think and the way we act… forever.  Even Mayor Richard Daley who in 1968 stood by Mrs. Shriver’s side at those first Games was quoted as saying “You know, Eunice, the world will never be the same after this.”  He was right.  I think the very heart of this entire 50th Anniversary can be captured in that thought.

Just like the Special Olympics Games in Chicago, our Special Olympics State Summer Games in Albuquerque will be a celebration of every person’s life that has been changed through a Special Olympics experience.  As we link our past to the present, I pray hearts will be full as we play together, laugh together, celebrate together and live together.  TOGETHER is why we are celebrating.  TOGETHER remains our goal for the next fifty years.

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A Story

This morning I had the opportunity to speak at a Civitan Club meeting.  Civitan International is a volunteer service club who in the 1950’s adopted a special emphasis on helping people with intellectual disabilities.  Today they have an International Research Center on the University of Alabama campus, where research is being done on autism, epilepsy, brain tumors and more.  Civitan Clubs in Albuquerque set up games and crafts for our Special Olympics athletes to enjoy at our State Summer Games Olympic Village.

Anyhow, Dave, the President of the Club started the meeting this morning with a story, which I have chosen to share with you.

Dave was driving through his neighborhood one night last week, when suddenly the car in front of him came to a sudden halt.  It was dark and Dave said he was immediately skeptical, until he saw a woman get out of the driver’s side and hurry to the front of her car.  He then noticed two small girls who jumped out of the back seat and bee lined it to the front, as well.

Dave said his immediate response was to join them, and when he reached the three, he saw a flattened rabbit on the pavement.  He said when he saw the look on the little girls faces, he immediately ran back to his car, grabbed a grocery bag out of the back seat, and told the girls as he was putting the rabbit into the bag, he would take it to the animal hospital, where the hospital would make the rabbit as good as new.

Well, he admitted to all of us that he in fact did not end up taking the rabbit anywhere, but waited until the car was out of sight and then promptly disposed of it.  Here are my thoughts: Dave responded to strangers with kindness because of the attitude of his heart.  He saw the situation, and rather than avoid it, he did the best he could under the circumstances.  By doing so, even though he couldn’t change everything, he sent two little girls and their mom home feeling a whole lot better.

 

As I have thought about that story, it reminds me that it is the attitude of our heart that guides each of us to do what is right.  It is the attitude of our heart that can make our stories good stories or not so good stories.  What choices will you make today and what will your story be?

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We Won!

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On Monday it was announced in the Albuquerque Journal Business Outlook that Special Olympics New Mexico was selected to receive this year’s prestigious New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards Hopkins Award for Excellence in Ethical Practice by a Nonprofit Organization. I have to say – this is the National Championship of awards.

After being nominated last year, SONM went through an extensive process, which began with interviews by students from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.  Following those interviews we submitted a document reflecting how we demonstrate our organization’s principles around Leadership Character, Ethical Culture, Clear Purpose and Conviction, and Valuing People.  We were then interviewed by members of the selection committee, who chose the award recipients to include Ethical Business Practice by a For-Profit Business, Individual Excellence in Ethical Business Practice, Ethical Young Leadership Award for Youth Committed to Excellence, and Ethical Practice by a Non-Profit Organization.

This award doesn’t just speak of one person’s effort but years of people within our organization doing things right, demonstrating high levels of personal character, and meeting the highest standards of ethics.  I believe that the motivation and inspiration to do the right thing,especially when those right decisions aren’t always as obvious as they seem, stems from valuing the Special Olympics athletes we serve.  We have always and will continue to put their best interest first.

 

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BIG

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Sometimes we get so involved in the details of life, we forget to stop and think about the bigger picture. Lately, I have been reminded of just how big the Special Olympics Movement is, and more so, how each one of us should see ourselves in it.

In the past 30 days, in the name of Special Olympics New Mexico, I have attended the following: New Mexico’s Legislative session, the 2018 Special Olympics New Mexico State Poly Hockey Championships, the United States Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Conference, and New Mexico’s 2018 Law Enforcement Torch Run Kick-Off.

My point in sharing those recent activities with you is this: the Special Olympics Movement has a wonderful way of showing each of us, regardless of what our role is in Special Olympics, just how important we are in the big picture. Whether we are a Board member, a student, a Law Enforcement officer, an athletic official, an educator, a  Senator or Representative, a Games volunteer, a parent, a donor, a Special Olympics professional, or a Special Olympics athlete – not one of us is more valuable to this Movement than the other.

Today, helping other people know that they can make a meaningful difference, that their lives can change and they can help change other lives, that who they are matters – those are really BIG things. They are so big in fact, that each one of us should be inviting others to be a part of the Special Olympics movement, too. There are too many still waiting to experience it.

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She Shoots – She SCORES!

Tonight the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team will face off against the Canadians. If you haven’t been following – this will be a rematch for these two teams who will be competing for the Gold Medal. Four years ago, both teams competed for the Gold Medal and Canada won 3-2. In fact, this is the third Olympic final between the two teams. Great rivalry!

This weekend, teams from all over New Mexico will travel to Farmington to play in the 2018 Special Olympics State Poly Hockey Championships. Only 30% of the athletes will be women, but like tonight – there will also be great rivalry games. I think most everyone in our organization who ever played Poly Hockey or watched it would agree that this is Special Olympics New Mexico’s favorite team sport. We love our hockey here in the desert. Opening Ceremonies will include a slap shot contest, and once those Ceremonies end and competition begins, it’s “hard to the net” the rest of the weekend.

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Sometimes it’s hard to put Special Olympics competition into words. To watch athletes who are challenged with a disability give a sport their “all” can still one’s heart and open one’s eyes to see differently. I have watched these athletes a million times and each time I am reminded of this quote – “To win the game is great – to play the game is greater – to love the game is greatest.” Looking forward to hearing “STICKS!”

 

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