Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

I have worshiped God this weekend. (Last weekend of May)

It is fairly easy for me to worship the creator on a regular basis, as I watch the changing seasons, enjoy grandeur of our local scenery, and as I see grace poured out in my life every single day.

However, there are certain moments that are life-changing that propel me to deep in my bones worship, and being a part of Special Olympics this weekend would definitely fit that category.

Last fall, one of Thomas's special ed. teachers began to promote Special Olympics.  She rounded up several volunteers, other parents, kids from the local University.  She organized the fundraisers and practices.  She advertised.  This is a very busy single mom, full-time teacher with a special needs daughter of her own.  She is working toward graduation of her daughter, just like a lot of us other parents in town.  I can't imagine how she managed, but she pulled it off.  Thomas and his team went to the district Special Olympics competition in Odessa and they came back with a big pile of gold and silver medals.  And an invitation to participate in the State Summer Special Olympics in Arlington, TX.  Along with over 3000 other special kids from all over the entire state of Texas. 

I took off work in the bakery on faith, trusting that somehow it was much more important to support Thomas and the rest of the team than to earn money through bread baking.  I took the kids out of school on Thursday, trusting that the education of Special Olympics would be more valuable than the school they would miss. 

It was mostly about Thomas, seeing as this is his Senior year and he may  not be living with us anymore, come August. 

We drove over 8 hours to get here. We checked into the hotel and ate pizza, got the schedule from the coach and and hit the pool. I think we began to get an inkling that this weekend might be bigger than us and Thomas when we pulled into the hotel parking lot and saw hundreds of special needs kids lining up to check into the Holiday Inn Express. With uniforms on and surrounded by patient coaches and friends. Early next morning we drove to University of Texas Arlington Stadium to cheer on Thomas in the prelims. The moist air surprised us and the wind blew the hair out of our face as we waited on the south side of the field for Thomas's leg of the relay. We happened to get there early, which was a blessing. Other teams lined up in position to race. We found ourselves staring down into a picture of joy, courage and true grit. Kids with various disabilities ran around the track and we cheered for these strangers , rejoicing as they ran, eyes gleaming, smiles shining, arms and legs and prosthesis pumping. All of a sudden I realized this was much bigger than Thomas. Bigger than Alpine high school. I know the kids got it too and in that moment it was obvious this was a lesson that would more than likely change our life. We yelled and cheered and jumped with joy and I remembered my Aunt Linda, Daddy's baby sister with Down's Syndrome. I rejoiced in her life and thought of  my Grandma Rowe who so patiently taught her and the profound influence they had on my life.

The day grew long, the sun grew hot, and I had to remind the kids that our big trip to Arlington was not about us having fun doing leisure activities.  The shade disappeared and volunteers continued to measure and time and athletes ran and leaped.  We returned to the hotel to shower and change and get back to the Stadium for Opening Ceremonies.

The music blared, the teams were announced, and they marched onto the field, group after group.  Some schools only had one or two students.  Others had dozens.  Before you know it, the stadium field was completely filled with a rainbow.  Thousands of athletes, volunteers and law enforcement officers, flags and banners, brightly colored t-shirts, dancing kids, smiling faces, thumbs up. 

At that moment, I was filled with awe.  I was in the presence of the kingdom of God.  The athletes were there to compete, in a safe environment.  They were cheered on by people who loved them.  They rejoiced in the ability to move their bodies.  First place, or last, they gave it their all. 

I hate to dash off these unedited notes because the event merits a well-written article.  I have so many thoughts banging around my head.  I wish to do it all justice, but if I wait for that moment, nothing will get written at all.  So, bravely I forge ahead, wishing to say that Special Olympics changed my life.  I am proud that I had the opportunity to cheer on those kids.  I am proud of Thomas running and winning silver medal in running long jump, a ribbon in the 200 yard dash and bronze in the 4oo yard relay.  I am proud of the many volunteers who gave of their time to love on our kids.  And to encourage them to go for it. 

I want to live my life a bit more like those kids.  Willing to risk a little, regardless of my limitations.  I want to aim for the gold, but not be paralyzed if bronze or a medal is as far as I might be able to reach.  I want to run my race with joy and exhilaration. 

There is more.  But I guess I  might as well hit the post button so this doesn't get buried with the many other partially written posts I never get back to!  It was a huge blessing to be a part of Texas Special Olympics Summer Games.  If you get a chance, spend some time with someone with special needs.  I bet you will learn something wonderful about them.  And I bet they will teach you a few lessons that will help you in your own life. 

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