A while back my wife and I helped officiate at The Special Olympics. Theirs is a remarkable organization and the events are wonderful. All the kids participating walked around aglow, holding one hand high, index finger pointing skyward saying, “number one!”. And though they were all, to varying degrees “handicapped” – they were all Winners.
One event in particular came back to mind today. It was a 100 yard race of about 20 kids. The stands were full with maybe 1500 people cheering on the contestants; some of whom used crutches, some had braces, some with pronounced limps and some in wheelchairs. All rarin’ to go …..
At the gun most of them took right off down the track. Some took a little longer to get going, but then they were off too. But one boy in a wheelchair was left in the dust. Try as he might he just couldn’t get the thing going down the track. Hands on the wheels, trying hard to push forward, leaning as best he could toward the finish – but nothing was working. He just jerked an inch or so forward only to immediately recoil the inch backward.
The rest of the field had well cleared the starting line and cheers in the stands further up the track encouraged them onward. Leaving this one boy, Ronnie – as some had started calling out to him – all alone, struggling in place, stuck at the start.
The cheers started growing.
“Ron-nie! Ron-nie! Go Ronnie! Go man! Come on Ronnie!!” The more he struggled – the more he didn’t go anywhere. And the cheers got louder. “Come on Ronnie!!” You could see it effecting him, there in his determined yet frustrated attempts to go forward, the appreciation for the support. Not overt – he was hard at work after all – but there.
And the more he fought to get going, the louder and louder the cheers got. It was awesome. My reaction was out of the blue. I’d never experienced anything like this. And in spite of what I might have previously characterized as a futile, sort of – well – I’ll admit it, pathetic sight there at the starting line – I now found myself seeing as magnificent, and cheering for with all my heart. “Go Ronnie!! WooHoo!!!”. Who would ever have thought something like this could be called a spectacular moment. But man, it was. I guess I’d been the pathetic one. It was magnificent to the finest degree.
The cheers from the stands didn’t seem like they could get any louder, but they did ….. then all of a sudden Ronnie engaged and the chair started moving forward.
The place exploded.
The only thing I’ve heard even close to it was when Kirk Gibson hit that home run at Dodger Stadium. But Ronnie’s triumph was indeed Special. God, as he began haltingly inching his way down the track there wasn’t a dry eye or not beaming, smiling face in the crowd. Maybe the most supportive, loving, jubilant, breakthrough moment I’ve ever experienced. Probably should include everyone there and say “we’ve” ever experienced.
In spite of the grim reports the news shoves down our psyches 24 hours a day – the amount of love and support people can give each other is as limitless as the Universe …