I’m sitting here in Whistler, BC, taking a day off from being a Mom and a booster parent to my son George who is a Paralympic skier. I now have a few moments to reflect on all that has happened over the past few days.
Firstly, I am deeply humbled by the courage and fortitude that the paralypians exhibit daily. They have severe handicaps, and yet they manage to get around, lead productive lives, and prevail. They spend years training – 8-10 hours a day like all olympic athletes – and have to overcome amazing odds. Not only do they have their physical issues to manage, but they get little funding and less recognition. They have a goal, a vision, of what they want success to look like and they make it happen. No excuses that they might be entitled to ever get in the way. They keep going no matter what. Just hard work and grit.
But the most touching thing of all is the kindness, good will, and respect that these athletes offer each other. While watching races that my son was not participating in, he was cheering loudly for each athlete, regardless of country (albeit a bit louder for his mates), loudly expressing awe and respect as they’d make a good turn or have a good run.
Walking around the Olympic Village yesterday, it was surprising how they each knew each other, each other’s disabilities, and even each other’s wives and girlfriends. “That’s Paulo. He’s BK (below the knee amputee). He’s from Brazil. Lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. That pretty woman is his wife. He’s an awesome skier.” They walk around the Village cheering each other’s success and being sad for failures; they tease and kid each other. George saw a visually impaired skier from another country and teased him. The man immediately recognized George’s voice and teased him right back. And there is no sexism: the men and women skiers are all in the same family.
Indeed, they are a family. They accept, respect, acknowledge and tease each other, with no competitive acrimony or resentment. They are all respectful of the journey and trials. It’s quite wonderful to experience – we don’t ordinarily have contact with that level of non-judgment and kindness.
But why don’t we? Just because able-bodied people have healthy arms and legs and eyes doesn’t mean we don’t all suffer internal scars or handicaps. Imagine if we all treated each other with the respect we all deserve: for getting through the ‘slings and arrows’ of what life throws our way, and all part of a brother/sisterhood of the human condition.
Imagine what the world would look like if we did. Imagine.