Friday, November 22, 2013

Live on, JFK

I'm a winner!
Because of the Kennedy legacy, people like my Charley are able to call themselves athletes. In my house, it sounds like this:

"Close you eyes, Mom."

I close my eyes.

"Put out hand."

I open my hand, holding it in front of me.

"No peeking."

Something metal is placed in my hand.

"Okay, eyes open."

There, in my hand, is a silver Special Olympics medal.

"Wow! Did you win this today?"

"Yep! I play basketbalt!"

"Remember, Charley, it's not the medal that makes you a winner. You are a winner because you are you."

"Yep, I am." He's beaming with pride.

He takes the medal out of my hand, puts it around my neck, and kisses my cheek.

"I'll never take it off," I tell him.

I have the Kennedy's to thank for that. Because the Kennedy's unlocked the door of disabilities, reached through the portal of possibilities, and reminded us that, "We all breathe the same air," people like Charley have been welcomed with opened arms and lifted up with open hearts.

Today brings with it memories for those of us who learned of the assassination of President Kennedy 50 years ago. I was in the fourth grade sitting at my desk thinking about throwing a spit-wad into the beehive on my teacher's head when a woman stepped into the classroom and made the announcement. Little did I know at the time, that she was talking about someone who's pioneering family would have such an effect on my own, so many years later, in the form of Special Olympics.

For those who may not know, Special Olympics was born as the result of Eunice Kennedy Shriver starting a camp for special needs people in her back yard. A place where they could run and play, and be themselves. A place where they were accepted exactly as they were, encouraged to be the best they could be, were taught to encourage others, and were celebrated for their accomplishments. I am humbled and inspired by difference makers.

Because of the Special Olympics, people like my Charley know the roar of a cheering crowd. The anticipation of starting the race. The thunder of clapping hands. The excitement of the finish line. The happiness of a teammate's arm around a shoulder. The pride of hanging a medal around a mother's neck.

Yes, President John F. Kennedy died too young, and today we pause and reflect. It was a tragic day in the life of our nation and we remember his family in our prayers.

But in the backdrop, isn't it nice to know that he lives on every time a Special Olympian's tennis shoes hit the racetrack. Every time the swimmer's arms make another splash. Every time the volleyball is launched over the net. Every time a parent looks into the face of their special needs child and says, "Congratulations!" Every time an athlete feels like a winner.

Rest in peace, JFK. 

Remind us to breathe the same air.

Compete with pride, Special Olympians.

Inspire us to be the best we can be.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful tribute. The Kennedy's would be touched to read this, I sure am.