The 2015 Special Olympics: Courage, Bravery, and Inspiration

Stories of bravery remind us how to be strong in our own lives. These narratives teach us to be vocal participants in our communities, and they inspire us to be proactive in our support of what is right.

Throughout the 2015 Special Olympic Games, which begin this Saturday evening, ESPN will air nightly biopics of athletes alongside their coverage of the game. I want to encourage you to watch this coverage, as these are the genre of sports stories that define the essence of the athletic spirit.

We will watch over 6,500 of the world’s most determined athletes compete across dozens of sport, and we will support them as they thrive over the next weeks. As we do so, we can rejoice in our common bond, the core of the human spirit defined by a drive to compete against others as a means of challenging ourselves. We can come together and be vocal in our support for global acceptance. Each of us deserves the opportunity to compete.

The athletes and coaches participating in the 2015 Special Olympics are special, because they have more courage and will-power than the majority of humanity.

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

~ Special Olympics’ motto

Sports are more than a means of entertainment when they enlighten us with a reminder of how to be courageous.

In challenging others, we celebrate the unified human spirit of overcoming obstacles. The most moving stories that I have read are not triumphs  over an opponent, but over unique personal circumstances. When we see an athlete pouring their heart into their sport, despite their hardships, we see pure determination manifested in the face of a true competitor. We are confronted with the reality that nothing can replace a driven spirit and an open heart.

This is when we truly witness greatness.

And maybe, hopefully, we remind ourselves that greatness is not some abstract concept reserved for professional athletes. We feel our hearts stirring with pride, as we realize that greatness lies within each of us, and thus within humanity. We become unified by our ability to not merely persevere, but excel.

So when the Special Olympics begin this Saturday, we should watch with reverence, as thousands of individuals from across the world display their athleticism, their appreciation, and most importantly their boundless joy.

If you and I open your minds to fully supporting these athletes, we will find these games and the stories behind the individuals participating a humbling experience. We will rekindle the flame of bravery within in each of us.

On a similar note, the central theme of the 2015 Special Olympic Games’ is best exemplified by the Flame of Hope, which ignites the beginning of this year’s Special Olympics Opening Ceremony. Perhaps it represents the hope that each of us can be brave in the fight for inclusion. Perhaps it also represents hope that these incredible athletes and their stories inspire us to improve ourselves and our communities.

Let us not only display a unified voice against discrimination, but likewise, a unified voice in support of healthy lifestyles.

When we watch this year’s opening ceremonies on Saturday, and keep track of the action by watching ESPN’s nightly reports, we are doing more than simply putting an end to the R word. We are collectively embracing the word athleticism.

As we listen to and watch these uplifting tales of courage in the weeks to come, may we see these Special Olympians as, first and foremost, Olympians.

Image courtesy of City of Calabasas

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