|July 17, 2004Changing Tunes-A Strange and Unexpected Twist
The month of June and The Olympic Trials brought with it a mysterious and difficult change in my outlook on a few things. I am only writing to you because I feel compelled to share. This banter is only food for thought, for me as well as for you. Honestly, I am just sharing some feelings that have come about as a result of life’s challenges, rewards and frustrations. I am BY NO MEANS, suggesting that I am this great person who gives so much of herself. I have a million faults and I am constantly working on trying to be a better person. I need all the help I can get. I am simply offering up, like I said, food for thought.
I have become acutely aware of the extreme self-involvement, ego-centric nature of sport at an elite level. Now I must preface this with saying this is not shocking, nor is it the first time I have picked up on this. Yes, I am very aware of what it takes both physically and mentally to compete at the highest level. It takes a little selfishness. Okay, it takes a lot of selfishness. But does it have to totally take you over? Could there still be room for compassion and empathy and generosity and kindness? I don’t know.
I wonder if there is a way to be someone who gives more to others than to themselves, and still remain at the top of their craft, whether it is in sport or business? I wonder if there is time or if there is room? Don’t you just have to find the time and make the room? Does one’s total self-centeredness continue to breed more complete focus on oneself, or can the chain of only focusing on oneself be broken with conscious effort? I don’t know these answers. I am interested in the challenge though. Can one reach the pinnacle of their goals in life while simultaneously living a loving, encouraging, giving, and kind life? Hmm…
At the end of the day, when it is all said and done, what do we look back on our life as? Did we win that big promotion? Did we win that big race? I don’t think that those are the questions we’ll be asking ourselves. I think we will be wondering if we made a difference in our short time on this planet. I wonder if we will ask, “Did I make a difference in someone’s life, no matter how big or small? Did we change the way someone sees the world for the better? Did we give so much of ourselves one day to a friend who needed us that we were too exhausted to work or train and later realize that being there felt even better than a really hard workout ever could?'”
A few years ago at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants – all physically or mentally disabled – assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the gun,they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win. One little boy stumbled, fell, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other runners slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back, each one of them. One girl with Down’s syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line.