"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.
Pushing yourself to your full potential;
Not letting the world tell you what your limitations are;
Having upstanding character;
Caring more about others than only yourself;
Standing next to an opponent and cheering;
Clapping for the person who got gold when you got silver;
Respecting the game and the players.
Special Olympic events are some of the most beautiful Kingdom experiences I have ever been a part of. These athletes spend months – even years – training hard in preparation for competing in their events. They dedicate so much time and overcome so many physical “limitations.”
They are athletes.
Competitiveness has always kept me away from sporting events, but you won’t see me missing a Special Olympic event in my local area. These athletes have so much to teach us about competing. They complete alongside friends. They cheer on their competition. They play with grace and excitement.
This is true sportsmanship because they have seen their friends push themselves, too. They have walked together to improve themselves and reach their goals together. Though they want the gold medal around their necks at the end of the day, they are only competing against their personal best. Their goal is bettering themselves.
If you haven’t seen this kind of sportsmanship, you have missed an amazing opportunity to volunteer at a Special Olympics near you. I honestly cannot think of a better way to teach yourself and young people you love how to truly cheer others on. In a world that is constantly telling us that if we push ourselves hard enough we should expect to succeed, I want students to learn to look at people in a way the world doesn’t understand – people who are differently abled and see their true bravery.
We should strive to have role models who are brave and demonstrate incredible sportsmanship. There is an easy solution! Find a friend with a disability. Cheer them on as they cheer on teammates and opponents at Special Olympic events.
I encourage you to see this for yourself by tuning into the World Special Olympics taking place March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi.
Bekah Behnke is a CIY guest columnist, blogger and special needs ministry facilitator for Christ’s Church of Oronogo (MO). To reach out to her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.