Special Olympics

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B W woman runner, arms out

The televised segments of the World Special Olympics this week have related story after story of inspiration, persistence, and generosity. Some of the generosity was spontaneous, as when people chipped in to buy matching uniforms for one national team. But a lot of generosity was planned, for example by the thousands of volunteers who assisted individuals and teams from all around the world.

Another planned aspect that has changed lives are the hundreds of doctors who donated their time and tools to do head-to-toe health check-ups on the participants. They gave medical tests to 4,500 athletes, gave out 4,200 new pairs of shoes, performed major dental services, and freely gave away 600 pairs of needed glasses. Many of the national athletes had never had medical help before and had never even owned a pair of shoes in which to run.

But they had run anyway, making it to top levels in a wide range of sports despite huge obstacles. One young man who cannot walk crouched on his own two feet, than ran an Olympic foot race by using his two arms and legs, frog-style, to go the whole way and cross the finish line. One top golfer, despite the limited range his torso could twist, used a one-arm golfing style that hit astounding power shots down the fairway. And one bald, beautiful teenage girl paused her cancer chemotherapy treatments to be able to participate – and ran a stunning race to finish with the gold.

What was it all for? Helping these astounding persons realize their self-worth, overcome community stigma, and embrace their common value as gifted human beings. “I – am – an – athlete,” declared a Downs Syndrome medal winner, with tears of joy streaming down his face.

“People helping people, unity creating inclusiveness,” said the announcers, as they summed up the spirit of the world-class events. We could do as well in the church, as we encourage people on their faith journey – wherever they come from, whatever their limitations – to affirm, “I – am – a – child – of – God.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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