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From the Publisher: Celebrating Olympic Courage

May 9, 2011

It’s easy to take for granted the things we’re given in this life.
I’m not talking about the things we work for and earn in our time on this planet. I’m not even referring to material possessions we’re born into thanks to the people we spend a lifetime calling “parents.” Yes, mom and dad give us a lot in life, but even the material things they obtain and put into our hands come as the fruits of somebody’s labor somewhere along the way.
They weren’t free.
Many of us take these things for granted, too, but when it comes to the gifts each of us received at the moment we broke from our mother’s womb, it’s easy to overlook just how lucky we truly are. Too often we overlook the blessings we received the day we were born — blessings many families may never know.
They’re simple things really.
Two arms, two legs and two eyes that function in a way the world considers “normal.” A brain that develops and allows us to string together words and sentences and to communicate complete thoughts. A genetic make-up that lets us enjoy a life that is free from strange looks, special treatment or a supportive hand required just to complete life’s most basic chores.
Yes, many of us take for granted the things we are given in this life. As we do, we live without giving a second thought to the fortunate twist of fate that allowed us to enter existence without the burden of a disability.
In advance of Mother’s Day, I received a stirring reminder of just how fortunate I am; of just what sorts of blessings I enjoy after my birth 35 years ago. And I was reminded just what kind of courage is required by those folks who aren’t so fortunate.
On Friday, Newton-Conover High School hosted the Catawba County Special Olympics. This annual event brought together young people from elementary, middle and high schools throughout this county, along with teachers, volunteers, parents and supporters dedicated to helping a group of really special people enjoy the life they have been given.
And those enjoyed by many of us, the lives received by these Olympic athletes aren’t so easy. The challenges placed upon these people — as well as their families — are what many would describe as a nightmare. Yet, you won’t likely hear any of those folks complain about the course in life they’ve received. They don’t take for granted the things they were given when entering in this life, even though there are so many blessings they didn’t receive.
Some lack the muscle coordination required to throw a beanbag through a hoop without a helping hand. Others can’t stand on their own legs to make their way around a track and cross a finish line. A few athletes need a helping hand just to complete the alligator crawl across a four-foot mat.
While athletes competing in the Special Olympics lack so much in terms of physical capabilities, they exhibit a trait all too rare in a today’s ungrateful society: Courage.
Athletes who participate in the Special Olympic games demonstrate courage every time they set foot in the competitive arena with the oath “let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Likewise, mothers and fathers illustrate courage as they wake up every day facing an enormous challenge, yet soldiering on with love and patience for sons and daughters. Teachers, therapists and volunteers exhibit courage as they make their own choices to dedicate themselves to helping a group of people who didn’t receive the same blessings as so many of us did.
Quoting inspirational writer and artist Mary Anne Radmacher, Newton-Conover City Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond helped open the 2011 Special Olympics with a thought that put a unique perspective on this sort of courage.
“Courage does not always roar,” he said. “Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”
Courage. It is a trait possessed by the meekest among us, and taken for granted by some of the strongest who may never realize how lucky they are for gifts they received on the day they were born.
Thank you Special Olympians and those who support you. You give us cause to remember to be grateful for those things we are given. For that, regardless of where you finish in the field of play, we have every reason to call you champion.

Michael Willard is the publisher of The Observer News Enterprise.

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