Despite the 90 degree heat today, I haven’t felt this exact type of warmth since last Christmas, after spending time with family and friends and just experiencing all the reciprocal love and positive energy rebounding back and forth between us.
I spent this morning volunteering for the Special Olympics at the University of Rhode Island in North Kingstown. It’s been about 25 years since I volunteered, and then it was just in the communications booth. I never even got to see any athletes up close. What an amazing bunch of people.
Amateur athletic events and I are old friends by this point in my parenting career. Jules is quite the athlete and she has played basketball, softball and/or soccer in some combination or another since she was four. And she was dancing and acting at age three. So I know what those types of competitive gatherings are like. Well, I thought I knew.
Today there was no pushing, shoving, squeezing to get in the prime spot, to take the prime picture. No video cameras in front of your view, not a hostile word, thought, or deed. The athletes were calm, patient, living in the moment and enjoying it all, win or lose. No one crying because she couldn’t live up to unattainable expectations. No injuries that swiped everyone’s breath away in a giant gasp.
I had a very tense ride down, and almost all the way back home, and then back again, and thought, shutting off the car, that maybe I wasn’t meant to be helping today. (We will refer to that as the husband lost the car keys crisis, but then found them after I came all the way home). That left me a bit cranky. And after all, what could I do to make a difference today?
Well I didn’t do much, seemingly. But I felt. I cheered. I smiled till my face hurt. I gave lots of high fives and pats on the back. I handed out and collected towels from the athletes. As soon as I got my sweaty self out of the car the joy in the air nearly knocked me over.
My only moment of angst was looking at them all, with assorted combinations of numbers and letters inked on their shoulders. It was to help the volunteers identify where they needed to go, but it was the only slight sense of institutionalism I felt. The athletes didn’t mind, and many of them were quick to point out that they knew where they needed to go based on their marking. They beamed with pride so I recognized that my world and their world don’t intersect enough at all.
The athletic ability was amazing, not what one would expect at an event for people with any kind of special needs. They put me to shame for sure.
Witnessing my work colleagues, helping, relaxing and enjoying with these sweet, kind, gentle people filled me with appreciation and pride. We were all at our best, volunteers, athletes, and parents.
I wanted Julia to join me today, but she is too young to work directly with the athletes, and in addition she has a basketball tournament this weekend. I felt a little sheepish missing her games today, but she understood. And I will see her play tomorrow. But I am sorry that I will miss my new friend Ryan get his medal for winning the team relay tomorrow. And Eddie, who shook my hand and made me feel special just being there. High Five.
- Hundreds Gather for Special Olympics in Grand Junction (krextv.com)
- Attending the Special Olympics (memosforme.wordpress.com)
- Opening Ceremony Friday night to officially begin NC Special Olympics Summer Games (charlotte.news14.com)
- Hundreds compete in Special Olympics events (wfmz.com)
- Athletes participate in Special Olympic Spring Games (kget.com)