Thursday, May 08, 2008

Generosity of Spirit

"It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others." ALFRED ADLER

Many years ago, I found myself kneeling at the finish line, on a track with six lanes of “runners” coming toward me … my camera at the ready … cheering the Runner progressing toward me in the lane that I occupied … and feeling the tug at my heart-strings as I saw him falling further and further behind the competitors in the five other lanes. The runner was my son. The event was one of several that he was competing in as part of the annual Special Olympics (a version of athletic competition tailored to the special limitations [all mentally impaired to differing degrees … some physically impaired] of its participants.) My son has cerebral palsy and the portions of his brain effected result in a moderate impairment of his intellectual functions as well as a minimal impairment of his hips, and legs. He was, on that day, the only participant in that race who relied in the services of crutches. And it was due to this limitation that he was losing ground to the other competitors.

My role, in all of this, was to subtly assist him in maintaining a focus on his own lane so that he would not drift off into the adjoining lanes. (That challenge of "focus" being one of the aspects of his impairment.) I accomplished this (without causing him the embarrassment that would accompany an obvious display of my intentions) by appearing to be intent on photographing him as he raced. I could see the growing dismay in his eyes as he recognized the inevitability of crossing the finish line well after all of the others had.

Then a wonderful thing, that (even at this moment, all of these years later) still has my eyes brimming with tears, at the recollection. The runner in the lane to my son’s right looked over his shoulder … saw the sadness and frustration on my son’s face … and stopped … and waited … and ushered my son … ahead of him … across the finish line. And then applauded my son (while also cheering him.)


Need I say anything more? Is there anything that my words could add to the eloquence of that young man’s sermon in demonstrated compassion and self-sacrifice? Can the poetry of one person’s obvious generosity of spirit be enhanced by anyone else’s commentary? I think not! So rather than speak to that young gentleman’s nobility, I will speak to us … You and Me.

Would it take so much for us to step aside and allow the one struggling along-side us to move ahead? Will our position in our own life-race be jeopardized by a spirit of generosity and sacrifice? Is that “finish line” of immediate gratification worth the loss of the higher goal of betterment of our shared environment? Will we be any “better off” as a people if we insist on focusing on our own agendas to the exclusion of a sensitivity to the plight of our neighbors? Did that young man not demonstrate, to all of us, the noble value of assuming responsibility for and taking action to benefit those who (while doing all that they are capable of doing) are falling behind?

No, My Dear Reader, I can not add to, nor do I wish to detract from the beauty of the message delivered by that wonderful Human Being’s behavior. So, in this thought on reaching out and touching others, I will dry my tears of recollection … and send these considerations to your safe-keeping.




IMAGE: Matthew Michael Brown (My Son)

22 comments:

Vi said...

This reminds me of the poem 'The race' I posted many mango seasons ago. It's my favourite poem, makes me cry every time. I'll think I'll email it to you. xxx

aims said...

Two words JM - Bless him.

lime said...

what a wonderful display of both generosity and class by the other runner. when the win at all cost mentality is elevated a game looses all fun. but by demonstrating that generosity of spirit how much gladness was had by so many more people.

don't know if you saw the coverage or not but recently there was some sort of championship girl's softball game being played. one girl got up and cracked a home run out of the park and as she began to run the bases injured herself severely enough that she collapsed and had to be picked up. if her own teammates had carried her around the bases she would have only gotten a single or double or something. so girls from the opposing team came off the field and carried their competitor around the bases so the home run would count in full. the team that showed mercy lost the game by a single run i believe, but what a classy group of young ladies who honored the spirit of their competitor. regardless of the final score they were all winners that day in the finest sense of the word.

thanks for sharing your story. i can fully picture it and now i will pass the tissues.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Of course your post had me choking back tears too. I always feel that my heartstrings have been pulled when hearing wonderful accomplishments like these. That person acknowledged in his own mind that your son is a human being, albeit with an impairment just like my Amy but we were all made the same when all's said and done. Lovely post, John Michael.

With love, Crystal xx

John-Michael said...

You and I are so beautifully akin, My Darling Vi! I too love that poem, but had lost track of my copy of it. And now, have a fresh copy with thanks to you! You are a total Sweetheart. (and I am jealous of those unworthy blokes who have the sweet opportunity to share moments with You there.)[DAMNED DATING SITE][loving smile].

I do Love You, Ya know!

John-Michael said...

You have me "googling" all sorts of combinations of things in an attempt to find that story of those marvelous softball players, Lime, My Darling. Though I know that it will be at the expense of my sinuses, I simply must see the story (and hopefully some video.)

I Love You, Sweet Friend, and thank you for this new story.

John-Michael said...

Beneath the exterior of a forty-something year-old, mentally impaired man, lived the very much up-to-the-moment soul of a compassionate and involved Gentleman of distinguished and refined character. That Soul shone through and introduced me to the Person 'neath the obvious, through his gesture, on that day. I am so glad that I could share my Spirit's moment with that lovable and endearing Spirit of yours, Crystal my Dear Friend.

I Love You so!

Amy Y said...

This was a beautiful story and a great reminder of something that is so easy to forget.
Thank you!

lime said...

i found a video covering the softball story here

lime said...

and i obviously got some of the facts wrong (oops) but not the spirit of the story.

lime said...

and here's a news article

(sick of me commenting yet?)

nitebyrd said...

Once again, john-michael, you've shown me that goodness and love do still exist. Thank you.

Beverly said...

I came here by way of your comments on Jen's blog. I read that you possess a fine spirit.

The story you share about your son is another proof of the good to be found in our fellow man.

It is important to share the story even though it occurred years ago because it is just this type of example that gives us hope.

John-Michael said...

AMY!! Hi there Sweet Girl!! How're Ya feeling?? Wow! I sure am glad to hear from you. And thank you, Sweetheart. Im glad that we remembered something good together.

Sure love You and that wonderful Hubby of Yours! Please be sure to give him my Love ... OK?

John-Michael said...

Well Lime!!! I do hope that you have stock in Bounty paper towels ... 'cause as soon as I was finished with the first set (with the video) ... along comes a fresh flushing of the sinuses with the newspaper account. That was so quick and wonderfully thoughtful of you. I did enjoy all accounts of this beautiful story. THANK YOU Sweet Friend for sharing it with all of us. You are the absolute BEST!!

(which just shows how smart and discriminating I am to LOVE YOU!!)

John-Michael said...

If you ever have a moment's doubt that (as you said) "goodness and love do still exist", NiteByrd, My Sweet, allow me to refer You to the nearest MIRROR!

See ... I can see it from here! And that's why I Love You so!

John-Michael said...

Hi there Beverly and a hearty "Welcome" to you. Any Friend of Jen's is Family here with Me.

And I do thank you for your reflections on my recollections. I am pleased that You found some satisfaction in my response to my Lady Muse's leading today.

lovingly ...

Corey~living and loving said...

Great story! I often find that those who have such disabilities and intellectual shortcomings have the biggest hearts.
I wonder if they have just not been tarnished by society. I wonder if they are just closer to the truth.....I liken them to young children that are innocent of the cruelities of the world, so they easily beleive in the good in each and every person!
Just rambling here...sorry!

Thanks for sharing! Have a great day!

John-Michael said...

Aims, You speak well ... what is Essential!

How my Heart does sing in your presence!

John-Michael said...

Corey, Corey, Please sing on! What you call "rambling" is the song of my Soul's conviction. I am in total harmony with your conclusions and perceptions. If only all the world could enjoy the sanctuary of innocence. I thank You!

Love You ... yes I do ...

Don Mills Diva said...

What a beautiful story John-Michael - I am so glad you brought this to my attention.

John-Michael said...

I am so pleased that You enjoyed it, my Don Mills Dear. I do relish sharing life's 'stuff' with You.

Lovingly ...

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