A few weeks ago I wrote thank you cards to a group of individuals whose company collectively and individually through their clients made a nice contribution to Special Olympics New Mexico. In those cards I quoted three of the “Beatitudes for Friends of People with Disabilities.” For those of you who haven’t heard of the Beatitudes, in their original form they can be found in the Gospel of Matthew where there are eight different blessings that are written with two phrases – a condition and a result.
There are different versions of “Beatitudes for Friends of People with Disabilities” but I found these three to be the most relevant in my life right now. I have spent time not only giving thought to these, but giving thought to my falling short of the results.
“Blessed are those who see past the disability of my mind and body – to see the shape of my soul.”
“Blessed are those who love me just as I am without wondering what I might have been like.”
“Blessed are those who believe God put me here to bring out the best in others.”
Seeing the shape of someone’s soul, loving someone just as they are, and believing that every person was put on this earth with a purpose in mind serves as a good self evaluation tool that speaks not only of who we are now, but how we will be remembered once we’re gone.
A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting a Unified Champion School banner to Vista Middle School in Las Cruces. This school is the only middle school in our country right now to have earned one of these banners. That would put New Mexico #1 on a list of something to celebrate. Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho is one of 41 High Schools to hang a banner. If you aren’t familiar with the Unified Champion School concept – the banner represents having demonstrated a commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence, which were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The long and short of it is – these schools do more than “say” they are inclusive – students with and without disabilities play sports together, develop student leadership together, and involve the entire school creating an inclusive culture.
The day I presented the banner Vista Middle School was hosting a four-school unified basketball tournament. The gymnasium was packed -there were cheerleaders everywhere- trophies were displayed for all to see- and the students were hugging, laughing, and seemingly happy to be there and not in class.
Having taught mid-school for four years of my life, I felt pretty comfortable, and as I wandered around the gym, I noticed everyone else seemed comfortable. It was inclusion – not something wildly special or a one time deal. It was special education students hanging out with regular education students- playing basketball together – messing around together – creating drama together. Key word here? Together.
Hats off to the leadership of schools who create real opportunities to learn and be together. Hats off to the students of this generation who are willing to take the time to figure each other out. Hats off to anyone who sees and believes THIS IS THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE.
Sometimes in life no matter how complicated things may seem, it all boils down to “if” and “then.” Right now there’s a big “if” that warrants our immediate response. New Mexico – if House Bill 412 is passed and signed into law – then our state’s nonprofit organizations are going to have far less dollars to serve those who need our help.
The House Bill 412 is designed to reform and simplify Gross Receipts Tax. It has passed in the House unanimously and is gaining momentum. If it does pass 1) nonprofits will lose their exemption from state Gross Receipts Tax – 2) nonprofits will have to pay Gross Receipts Tax on the “receipts” from fundraising events. Two events will be exempt, any more than two will be subject to tax – and 3) nonprofits performing services for the state will have to pay Sales Tax on the contracts.
To quote a very dear and wise friend of mine “Nonprofits are under assault.” We are stretched to the max and having to pay a Sales Tax will stretch us even more. Paying taxes on the very fundraising events that help us do the important work we do is bogus. And, paying a Sales Tax on the contracts we have with the state to do what we all do to serve the most vulnerable New Mexicans – REALLY?? Government can not provide the quality of service to people that nonprofits provide, and Special Olympics New Mexico can not endure potentially paying over $70,000 in taxes.
This is a call to action. We have until Friday – this bill is being rushed through. Contact your Senator and House Representative to let them know how House Bill 412 will hurt our nonprofits and our communities. If you aren’t sure who to call – go the NM Legislature website and check Find My Legislator. Call them – email them – tell them HB 412 Section 95 and Section 107 need to be amended.
Sport is what we make it. Last weekend in Farmington, New Mexico, the Special Olympics athletes who competed in our 2017 State Poly Hockey Championships made sport one of the best experiences anyone could have dreamed of having. The athletes competed with so much effort, determination, and passion that the spirit of their performance set the tone for everything and everyone. It was a State Competition that will be etched in SONM’s memory as one for the books. The athletes played REALLY well.
The past couple weeks I have become acutely aware of some things I do that I’m really not very good at. Being not very good at something should be okay, but it seems to get in the way. Whether we put pressure on ourselves or other people do it for us – I would bet the majority of us think we’re supposed to be good at everything we do.
Special Olympics taught me how not being very good at everything is okay. I remember vividly my first Special Olympics track meet. I stood in the infield watching hundreds of athletes race and made a quick observation that moved me to tears – with every race, the people in the stands cheered the loudest for the athlete who came in last.
I wonder if each one of us decided to encourage and celebrate the people in our every day life who may “come in last” or who aren’t very good at something – what a difference might be made. I wonder how many fewer people would choose to not give up on things so quickly, or how many of those things in life we consider “impossible” would in fact over time end up being “possible.” (Think about it – I could be speaking fluent Spanish right now.)
Might I encourage all of us to see what we don’t do well today as simply good enough for now. It just may lead us into a happier tomorrow.
Two weekends ago Special Olympics New Mexico and Special Olympics athlete Tim Harris embarked on their first Hug-A-Thon together. When Tim heard that SONM lost $155,000 of its state funding this year, he decided to do something to help. Tim has been working at The Range Café in Albuquerque. He spoke with the owner of The Range, Matt DiGregory, and they decided to host a Hug-A-Thon at all four Range locations, as well as The Standard Diner and The Freight House. The goal – give hugs and raise money for Special Olympics New Mexico.
With the help of 35 volunteers and 52 Special Olympics athlete “Tim huggers” – it was quite the weekend. The final tally is still out there, but it’s pretty safe to say that over the three days and almost 10,000 hugs later, the Hug-A-Thon raised over $20,000 and showed us this. A hug can take many forms and can last a second or seconds. Hugs teach us not only how to give, but also how to receive. Hugs connect us, and it was my observation over the three days that connecting turned out to be a very good thing.
One of our many group “hug shots”
(L-R): Mark Wiggins, Randy Mascorella, Ryan Danoff, Craig Amundson, Karen Hudson, Bob Scanlon, Sarah McMahon, Ryan Garcia, Dub Girand, Jack Eichorn, Jeffrey Ramirez, Tom Padilla, Consuelo Bolagh-Cowder, Warren Ellis, Steve Pino, Cathy Tingstrom. Not pictured: Brad Hutchins, Trish Stuart, and Chief Michael Geier
“It’s not for the magic of what happens, but for the hope of what might.”
I first heard those words from a sports announcer, who was actually describing the Rose Bowl, but as what happens often in my mind, I took those words out of context and applied them to something totally different – yet fitting.
In my opinion, those words did a great job of describing the work of the Board members of Special Olympics New Mexico. Let me start by saying, our organization is truly blessed to have the Board we do. They are passionate, smart, successful – and they care deeply about our athletes and families. They do what nonprofit Boards are supposed to do – taking responsibility for governance; broadening our organizational reach; helping us raise more money; making sure the business of Special Olympics New Mexico is in good order.
When they are all at the table together – it is about “the magic of what happens.” But, because of who they are – when they leave the Board room it is far more about “the hope of what might happen” that always moves our organization forward.