I admit it, I was a little star-struck along with Jolene Philo of Different Dream ministry. We shared an exhibitor’s table at The Accessibility Summit, a disability conference that we both attended at McLean Bible Church outside of Washington, D.C. We were busily answering questions about our ministries when Jolene turned to me and said, “We need to get going. I don’t want to miss the keynote. I’m excited just to be in the same room as a member of the Kennedy family.” Me too, Jolene!
Tim Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, shared the story of his Aunt Rosemary and her life with intellectual disability, as well as the founding of his organization by his mother, Eunice Shriver. Rosemary lived in a time when disability was even more isolating than today. Her mother Rose Kennedy spent untold hours looking for support and resources for Rosemary with little success. Eunice grew up hearing her mother say time and again, “There is nothing for Rosie. Nothing. Nothing.”
Eunice Shriver set about changing that, founding the Special Olympics. On July 20, 1968, Eunice opened what was then known as both the “Chicago Special Olympics” and the “First International Special Olympics Games.” Held in Chicago’s Soldier Field, about 1,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competed in track and field, floor hockey and swimming.
A decade earlier, people with intellectual disabilities weren’t even being educated. Thanks to Eunice Shriver and her team, they were running, jumping and swimming in Soldier Field.
At the first Special Olympics a group of athletes lined up on the track and raced with joy in midst of the thrill of competition. Rounding the corner to the homestretch with the finish line I sight, the athlete in the front tripped and fell. All the other runners went past him lying on the track. But then one stopped. The one who was in second place turned around and went back to help up his friend and they crossed the finish line together.
He could have been first. He chose to be last.
No one remembers the names of the young men on the track that day, but the timeless beauty of true friendship and compassion will not be forgotten.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35 NRS)
Loving God, thank you for friends in our lives who come besife us when we fall and help us get back up again. Amen
Photo By Olimpiadas Especiales México (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons