Grace, Kindness and What Olympians Can Teach Us

I’m guessing you are as distressed as I am these days with the behavior of our fellow-citizens refusing to abide by CDC guidelines putting at risk all others around them, especially children.  The resultant violent reactions are also frightening and sometimes life threatening.  One can hardly turn on the news without being assaulted by the fighting, cursing, and physical harm being done to law enforcement, school administrators, medical professionals, airline workers and business owners requesting civil cooperation for the safety of others.  At the top of this mob insanity are political ‘leaders’ who pour gasoline on the rising tempers by their own inflamed and simply incorrect rhetoric spewing lies and fear for the simple purpose of convincing their constituents to support them as ersatz saviors against any mandate in a free country.  Such spineless manipulation of voters!  Such evil!  No other words can describe this melee we sadly find our country in at this time.  

But, alas, hold on.  I saw hope the last two weeks in Tokyo where athletes from all over the world competed in games of brotherhood and sisterhood, not in violence or political animosity.  Did you see it too?  As Kurt Streeter, New York Times sports reporter wrote,  “I’m not talking about medal counts and world records here.  I’m talking about something more profound.  I’m talking about resilience, tenacious fortitude and even kindness under pressure.”  Yes, resilience like Simone Biles returning to the beam after forfeiting previous competitions and winning a bronze.  She had stuck it out to cheer her teammates in the previous competitions she had forgone for mental health reasons.  How about Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands picking herself up after tumbling on the track and falling behind but then coming in to finish first?  Grace and kindness?  How about Norwegian Lotte Miller consoling Belgium’s Claire Michel, as Michel sobbed after coming in last during a triathlete competition.  Or, how about Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy who chose not to have a runoff after they tied in their scores for the high jump.  They both shared the gold medal knowing they would be criticized by those who think there is only one winner and it is unmanly not to have a runoff.

Raven Saunders, the silver medal winner in the shot put, raised her arms in the form of an X during the American National Anthem.  The X stood for Saunders’ belief that she stands at the “intersection (where many athletes stand) and deals with depression, anxiety, PTSD a lot.” And she is a Black, queer female who speaks to many groups caught in the web of these issues.  The X stands for oppression she said in an interview.  A few days after winning her medal, Saunders suffered a terrible loss in the death of her mother.

I could list countless more examples of how athletes across the world energized all who watched them and were inspired by their caring and social justice as much as their athletic prowess. 

Reflection

At the end of the Games, we witnessed representatives in sport from all over the world come together for a closing ceremony where they gave each other mementos and hugs, and well-wishes.  Some will be friends forever.

This is the way God wants us to be in our own country during this time when we are competing against a virus.  We need our teammates to run fairly with us, observe the guidelines, tackle the virus in its tracks.  We cannot let it win.  We need to stop along the way to pick up the faltering, console the weakening, and finally grasp the prize of victory hugging each other in the end.

Let’s try to encourage friends and family in this venture and let’s make it a resolution to pray that the divisions keeping us apart on this challenge will dissipate with our love and our spirit of togetherness, our respect for community and for our country.  

Can you share with each other here what kind of prayer you might suggest for such a challenge? 

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