Monday, August 22, 2016

United in one diversity

United in one diversity we are even stronger. - Thomas Bach, IOC President

Last night I watched the closing of the 2016 Olympic Games. It was one of many days that I sat in front of the TV, watching a cross section of the world population participating together in 'games'. Throughout this Olympics, it seemed to me that the media was catching moments of caring and supporting, of reaching out and embracing.  There was no difference in color. There was no language barrier. There was a unity among the athletes who knew what it is to struggle, to succeed. Who knew what it was to need support. Who knew what it was to win and to fail.

When the refugees came into the stadium that opening night and a universal cry erupted from athlete and the crowd (and those of us at home).  It was cry that said we are in unity. We stand up against hate. We embrace those who are in pain and lost. There was not only a sense of country. There was a sense of world.

There were problems and mistakes in Rio. There was scandal. But that is not the story here. For me, it it a story of the heart. The Today Show took us into the hills and poor community talking about the lives of these people living in extreme poverty. Not a new story. The same is true for many of these places where tourists play and poverty sits on the sidelines looking on. Many of the athletes came from extremely poor areas and many without a home or family. We can celebrate victory but must not forget those who suffer. Everyone needs a nation of support. A nation of people who care.

I thought often of Clayton Murphy coming from the small rural area where I grew up. Immersed in a world he did not know. Standing among seasoned veterans who understood the pull of the excitement of the Games and the lure of this new atmosphere of celebration. I think perhaps that we fail to realize what participating in the games means to those who come from outlying areas. Being caught up in a whirlwind. Being tossed into a sea of humanity....a human sea so different from that they know.

I grew up in a white community. There were no other colors living in our pale community until I was a senior in high school. Part of the reason I left the area where I grew up was to experience the world outside. Having questioned so much in my life, I needed to find my own answers. We moved to Wisconsin where I was an outsider. Not only did you need to be pale, you needed to be a native, born and raised in the frigid state. We moved to Oregon, and I finally found what I had hoped existed. A place where I could truly learn about the world. We came at a time when things were changing here. A state that had been mostly white was changing its colors. I was surrounded by a population of all races, all religious beliefs and a celebration of all people, surrounded by a sea of variety. My granddaughters' friends were black and Hispanic. My son's best college friend was from India. My friends were different shades of lovely. I learned about God from those who knew him differently and by different names. I learned to have a deeper faith and a much clearer understanding of people. I was in that sea of humanity no better, no different.

I thought of Clayton entering that door into that new world. A black hand in white. A language barrier not separating but initiating a new language of kindness. An athlete giving up a chance of a medal not thinking of herself but reaching out to help a fellow runner. A sea of athletes entering an arena not separated by county. They entered in unity. No barriers. No hate. They left with new understanding.The Olympics are over, but new avenues of hope, of acceptance will continue. Hopefully, for us all.

 United in one diversity we are even stronger. - Thomas Bach, IOC President

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