Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Circle Unbroken - A Special Olympics Post

When I saw this on Facebook today, I thought immediately of Special Olympics.

Sad to say, but few of us in this world understand this message. But happy to say, Special Olympians do.

There's a group of special needs students from Knoxville at Ober Gatlinburg right this very minute. They may not be sitting in a circle with their feet together, but their arms are around their buddies.
Special Olympians understand the concept of the circle..."what's good for the group." They know that in order to cross the finish line, their buddies have to cross it too. They know that in order for a circle to encompass a spirit, it must be unbroken.

I've seen it. Even wrote about it on this very blog. Here's the original blog, written nearly two years ago. I'm rerunning this post not because I'm too lazy to write a new one, but simply because even though it refers to an outdoor sport, if I wrote it again for the winter games, the message would be the same.

Here it is...

The last time I saw Charley compete in Special Olympics, he was standing in the middle of a circle. Right in the middle of a volleyball court, crying. Not because he didn’t win. Everyone’s a winner at the Special Olympics. It’s about standing shoulder to shoulder with your fellow teammates, and mostly, having fun.

He was excited that day, putting on his official Special Olympics T-shirt, and he would have had a good time too, if I hadn’t fouled things up.

I can’t always go to his Special Olympics events, but that morning he put his arm around me and said, “Mom, you comin’?”

I started to blurt, “I can’t. I have to work.” Seems I'm always working on the important days. But the fact is, I didn’t have to work that day, so, Brad and I were there to cheer him on.

As we entered the gym he came running up to us. “Guys, dis my Daddy, dis my Mom,” he grinned and pointed us out to anyone who would listen. I don’t know who was prouder, him or us.
Brad and I made our way to the bleachers and sat down, when moments later Yvette (Charley's teacher) suggested we move.
“You can’t sit here,” she said, “Families sit in the upper level out of harm’s way.”

Even Brad pleaded with me to move to a safer seat, “Let’s move to the no kill zone,” he said.

But I had picked my spot and my fat little rear end wasn’t about to budge. “I can see better here,” I insisted, when, five, four, three, two, one. BLAM. A volleyball right in the kisser. After that, the only thing I saw was stars.

My face was bleeding, my nose was smashed, and my lip was cut. I tried not to cry as Brad escorted me to the hallway and helped me find the ladies room where I wiped my face with a wet paper towel and collected myself. 

 I considered leaving and going home. I couldn't see the game anyway; my glasses were a twisted mess. Besides, I didn't want to embarrass Charley any more than I already had. But Charley wouldn't understand if he looked up and we weren't there, so we went back to the gym.

As I opened the door I expected to see a volleyball game in progress. Instead, I saw a circle. There, in the middle of the floor, beside the volleyball net, was my son, surrounded by a circle. A circle that included not only his team, but the opponents as well. He was crying, and his buddies had turned their attention from their own moment of glory to make sure Charley was okay.

"It's okay, Charley," I heard one of them say.

"Your Mom be alright," Another said.

I walked over to him and he threw his arms around me and cried some more. I assured him that I was okay, his teammates (and yes, the opponents) slapped him high-fives, the excitement returned, and the game resumed.

I learned several things that day. First, if you are going to bend the rules, you might end up being the one who’s bent. Even Moms are supposed to respect boundaries. Including me.

Second, there’s a reason they call it Special Olympics. It’s called sportsmanship and there’s so much more to it than beating the other guy. It’s all about the dream and the team. The dream to be a winner, and the team that loves the sport, but more importantly, the team that loves each other.

Above all, it’s about helping a teammate find his smile so he can get back in the game. Because when you help someone else win, you win too.

And third. Isn’t it ironic? Those who are often considered the least of us because of their special needs are often the ones who teach us the most.

Somewhere in Ober Gatlinburg there's a group of athletes racing toward the finish line. Whooping and hollering and cheering each other on. Slapping high-fives when they win, and more importantly, when they don't.

I borrowed this image from Pinterest 

Special Olympics gets it right.

In a world where reality TV encourages and captures a 
"me-ism" mentality, isn't it nice to know there's a group at Ober practicing "we-ism?"

Will the circle be unbroken? It will if our Special Olympians have anything to say about it.

******                                     *****                                       *****

Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption.

Available on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Life-With-Charley-Sherry-Palmer/dp/1937365700/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Follow Sherry's board Life with Charley and Down syndrome on Pinterest.

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