I hope all of you have been glued to your televisions watching the opening ceremonies for the Los Angeles-based Special Olympics. From the beginning I was on my feet cheering and remembering just a few days ago when I was dancing with some of them and having an absolutely fabulous time at the Arrowhead Arts Association Tavern Bay dinner at Tavern Bay. The athletes from Switzerland were there and as my family hosted an American Field Service exchange student from Switzerland I was in my element. That event, with the Swiss contingent with their white shirts with the bright red cross on it (the Swiss flag), was a group who seemed to enjoy every second at Lake Arrowhead. They also took center stage at a parade that I hope they will remember for a very long time.
Wasn’t I lucky? When I was in high school my family had a foreign exchange student from Switzerland stay with us for almost half a year. Darling, wonderful, perfectly delightful Annemarie Hirtzel loved us and we loved her so the Swiss contingent of Special Education athletes absolutely made my day (and evening) along the shore of beautiful Lake Arrowhead. I know they had a fabulous time as well so it was very special to watch the Olympians from Switzerland walk in the opening ceremony today. (Thank you ESPN!) I was standing in my living room screaming “Hello” at them through my television. I know they couldn’t hear me but it didn’t matter!
I really had no idea how elaborate the games would be and I have to say that Olympians are Olympians around the globe. Olympians, as we learn, are not only able-bodied humans but they can also be athletes who have extra challenges and in many ways, they deserve even more praise than those who we all traditionally watch and cheer for during the “regular” Olympics.
This celebration is a learning event for all people who want to open their lives and their minds and to celebrate the challenges that people face and those who strive to overcome them. It should also serve as a reminder that we all have our struggles, whether they are mental or physical, but with faith in the future and support along the way we can persevere!
These athletes should inspire us. I know, in meeting some of them last Thursday night, they certainly inspired me…and I know I’m not alone!