Sigh…the Olympics are over…and as usual I got all caught up in the jubilation of our world united with people of all colors – flying flags from all nations. My social-worky self is drawn to such demonstrations of world peace and celebrated diversity. The significance of people coming from every part of the globe and joining together for this highly anticipated competition moves me at my core and to tears.
SPIRIT and UNITY
When the Olympics were held in Atlanta in 1996, I took a spontaneous weekend trip with friends to hang out and attend events in the Olympic Park. As recent college graduates we couldn’t afford tickets to any of the sporting events, but we had big fun at that global party!
I remember being overwhelmed with emotion by just standing in the metro station with hundreds of multi-cultured and multi-colored neighbors of our planet. There was some very happy music playing through the speakers and the energy was so positive and stirring that it made me just want to hold hands, hug and sway with everyone to something like…. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…”(wait a minute… maybe it WAS that little vintage Coke jingle that was piping through that Altanta metro…huumm) Commercialism aside, it was a moment that I will always remember and that same feeling of warm fuzzies returns with each Olympic season especially in watching the joyous procession of athletes into the opening ceremonies.
INSPIRATION and SUCCESS
This year I was particularly excited to watch the games because my children are now at ages where they are taking lessons and exploring their interests and talents in swimming, gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do ,etc. I wanted them to be inspired to find a passion and to aspire toward greatness. We watched Michael swim, Gabby tumble and Usain..Bolt. It was truly amazing, the kids cheered! The next day, at a pool party Jack jumped in the water and took off with extra strokes. At gymnastics camp this week, Cora has been quite proud of her jumps “from up high into the pit.” I think it made the right impression.
In response to one of my enthusiastic Olympics Facebook posts my mom commented “I watch and cry along with the winners! I am proud of all who compete and push the human body and spirit. Getting old I guess…” I replied “Not old mom, just a softie like me” – inspired, moved to the core.
FORTITUDE and RESILIENCE
We have a family joke of telling one another “If at first you don’t exceed, try and try again.” This was Jack’s 4 year old version of the saying- what he heard rather than “if at first you don’t succeed”… one of his Dad’s frequent encouraging mantras when Jack didn’t do something quite the way he wanted. One evening while watching the track races, Jack was very affected by the deep devastation that one of the runners expressed after he failed to qualify for another round. The runner collapsed in a ball with shoulder shaking sobs and Jack had many questions about this. After several thoughtful, quiet moments, he said “I feel sorry for that guy.” Another sensitive soul – there’s a family pattern here.
The courage and strength these Olympic athletes have in the face of such immense pressure is heroic. And the humanness of failure is real and heartbreaking yet important to witness. I was so impressed to see so many athletes who had struggled and fallen in previous Olympics return and succeed and felt for those who faltered. It is part of life. Another important lesson for us all. But these men and women continue on with the help of strong systems of support.
How wonderful would it be if everyone in the race of life had coaches, fans and supportive family and friends to cheer them on and to pick them up when they stumbled as they strive for their various goals? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all worked together to create that level of supportive community for all- for the medal winners and those who are just trying to make it. Maybe we should have an Olympics of Caring?!
So…farewell, 2012 Summer Olympics, and I look forward to the next great global reunion and hope that those athletes who didn’t succeed or exceed this time around, will be back to give it their all, to represent their countries and once again give us a brief window into the best of ourselves and our world.