If you find your life difficult, I have a suggestion; come join me for my son’s Basketball practice. This is no ordinary sports practice. This is a group of adults with various disabilities, including the man who shoots baskets from his wheelchair, and the young woman who shoots with her only useable arm- and she’s actually very good! There’s a young man who can’t quite follow the instruction to raise his arms higher and put some “oomph” into his shot, so his ball routinely falls halfway between the basket and the floor. Val09:8stumb

You’re wondering what kind of thing this is? It is Basketball practice for Special Olympics competition. And it is filled with good humor and just plain goodness. In Special Olympics there may be a first place and second place winner, but if 12 compete, there is also an 11th and 12th place WINNER. And there is always as I said; goodness. There are hand slaps, high fives, shouts and cheers for everyone, no matter their success or lack of success in the tasks. At the events there are volunteer huggers who stand at the finish lines and yell and cheer every athlete on, and hug every winner!

How does this relate to your life? Okay think about what you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. There is a John Lennon quote that I really admire.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was THE key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand
the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.

Several years ago I was writing fiction, and I got stuck at the second chapter, and didn’t know how to get un-stuck. (This was after successfully completing a whole novel.) This had never happened before, perhaps because this fictional writing was based on aspects of my own life. So it seemed to me, I was lost without the direction of this work. In an attempt to rectify the situation I sat down and wrote the last chapter. Front card Oliver

At that time I was substitute teaching in public high schools, and a similar assignment, write your own obituary, was a standard one for high school students. A teenagers response would be quite different than mine, written at 50 years of age. Yet it is a reflective and introspective task that I think is worth the time and effort no matter your age.

Here’s what I believe about dreams and goals for our lives: we all need aspirations and dreams to help us on our life’s path. Sometimes we will find we need to change our goals, restructure, or just abandon something already completed or not working. That’s okay. Give yourself permission to change. Give yourself permission to be, in all life’s many permutations and aspects. Then create new paths, new shining stars to reach toward, and move on. I believe very strongly that as we watch the progression of seasonal changes, so our lives can be seen as having seasons. Change should not be optional – because without change there is stagnation. Think of a pool of water that refuses to seep away, that collects dead bugs, dripping car oil, bits of trash… Not a pretty picture. Change is/ can be/ scary, but also enlightening.

I’ll share with you another saying [by an unknown writer] that I keep in the Smile folder in my collection of sayings:

A smile can brighten the darkest day.

Think of my son and his fellow Special Olympians. A happy bunch of folks given extraordinary challenges, yet enjoying camaraderie, fellowship, belonging.  Why are some truths so simple, yet so profound?

* Cards here are from several years back. I love the sayings and visual impact.   This is my art – do not steal the images.   Thanks for respecting my talent and my wishes.

Complaining about students getting equal billing in high school yearbooks, is psychology professor Jean Twenge [article, NYTimes, 11-7-2010]. She said; “Having everyone get equal time is the equivalent of everyone gets a trophy, or we’re not going to keep score, or even if we do, everyone’s trophy is the same size. There’s no resemblance to real life.”
I beg to differ with her. In Special Olympics every contender receives a ribbon for every event in which they participate. I’ve seen a race with 12 people, happily competing and receiving ribbons with first through 12th place winner printed on them. Note the key word there: WINNER.
Most folks who compete in Special Olympics do it for the social rewards and because they can. At the finish line of EVERY event is a group of people who volunteer to clap and cheer on the winners – all the winners — everyone who competes. Is there no place for most humans to go beside competing with each other to see who is the biggest winner?
Every person ever born is unique, different, capable; each in their own way. That’s real life, and so is a concept called sympathetic joy. “You would think as healthy human beings we would be concerned about others’ good fortune and happy to respect their preferences and choices. When we have a genuine regard for ourselves we naturally extend that by wishing others success. Mudita is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘sympathetic joy,’ or taking joy in other people’s happiness and well-being.” (www.care2.com: Why do we feel good…10-18-2010)
Now in that light I present you with retired British politician, Ann Wittecombe, who has appeared on Britain’s Strictly Come Dancing, on the BBC television network. Prepare yourself, should you choose to watch the video clip below. This brave woman is heavy and can barely dance, but she has self-confidence and courage!!!