3 Special Olympians – Courage, Caring & Compassion header image

3 Special Olympians – Courage, Caring & Compassion

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 Meet some friends of mine…

 I actually just met them last weekend but they have already become heroes of mine. They were Special Olympic athletes and their dads (and brother) who were participating in the annual Oregon games in Newberg, OR.  Although we only had 4-hours together on the golf course – the impact on me will last for a very long time…


That morning I volunteered to be a scorekeeper.  As we were waiting on the first tee box, I first met Doug and his son, Jeff (in the middle of the picture).  That smile on Jeff’s face…  it was there the whole day.  (Some days I’m sure I never smile)  Although dealing with some tough mental challenges, Jeff was working part time at a golf course in Eugene and he and his dad Doug golfed together nearly every week.  Jeff knows he’s different and has no-doubt experienced the diverted glances of others most his life. But he showed me the courage to push on with a smile.


On the right side of the picture was Michael and BIG brother, Matt.  Because of his near perfect golf swing, Michael’s particular disability was a bit tougher to spot.  Then on the second tee box I saw him adjusting a small hearing aid clipped to his baseball cap.  He had a severe hearing disability but that didn’t stop our ability to interact.  After executing a near perfect sand shot , I gave him a high-5 and told him what an amazing shot that was!  (I think I saw him smile under his somewhat oversized ball cap.)


Matt was a great encourager of his little brother but didn’t cut him much slack for an errant shot.  I think Michael liked being treated like everyone else.  Matt showed me the power of caring.  Not the kind of caring that walks on egg shells, but the kind of caring that made Michael feel like one of the guys.  There’s a lesson in there for all of us.


On the left side of the picture was father Pete and son Robert. They joined the group right before we teed off.  Robert made me laugh all morning. It didn’t matter if he put the ball into the weeds or duffed a short putt – he laughed anyway.  And so did we.  (He made me remember all the times I had golfed that course and probably never managed a smile – just too focused)   And both Pete and Robert teased each other mercilessly the whole time.  And pretty soon we all joined in.  I’m sure Pete has made a lot of changes in his life to spend time with Robert. Relentless compassion is an admirable trait.   One I wished I possessed.


As I reflected today on the morning, I was intensely thankful. Thankful for unconditional love. Thankful for examples of courage in adversity.  And thankful for groups like the Special Olympics who make those who have a bit of a disadvantage in life, feel on top of the world for a day. You may think my presence last Saturday morning encouraged Jeff, Michael & Robert but the truth is, they made a much bigger impact on me than I ever did on them…