Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Special" Day

I have tried to make it a goal to be more selfish with my time. I know, that sounds horrid, but basically I'm one of those women that magazine articles are written about, the kind that can't say... NO. I like to be active in my community, I like to find events for my Key Clubbers to stay active in our school and community. This, in years past, has often left ma at a place in life where I had more commitments than I had hours in a day to fulfill them. So, I have slowly evaluated what is important to me, what is important to the "greater good," and I have pulled away from committees and social groups that didn't rank high enough of my personal scale for judging those two criteria. That's not to say I didn't have to make some hard decisions and those same roles I stepped away from could be important in someone else's life, but for me, I have the unique venue of 100 kids looking to me to create the paths for them to do these same things... and, over time, I have come to accept that is, enough.

I have also come to define my greatest goal in my role as "Key Club Guru" to be to expose these small-town high school kids to as many ways possible to make contributions to society. Whether it's "saving babies and curing cancer" to playing Bingo at the Nursing Home to creating sales displays at a Habitat Re-Store to just showing up to support someone else's cause- in body or in money. I want them to have all these experiences (far too many to list), so when they leave the halls of my second home they have found their "niche" to change the world... like Mattie who postponed medical school to move to an orphanage in the Philippines, or Leannah who is traveling the coast fundraising & educating people about Alzheimer's, or those who have joined- and even even started Relay teams at their colleges.

Surprising to myself, is that I have finally found my "niche." What I look forward to more than anything else are the volunteer opportunities I find to work with the mentally-challenged. This past weekend was my absolute favorite Key Club event of the entire year. I jam-packed a school bus with 53 Key Clubbers and we drove over an hour to Virginia Beach to cheer on Special Olympics soccer for the whole day.

When I try to think of a way to describe the effect that Special Olympics has on me, I can hear whispers of Marley's "Every Little Thing is going to be all right" in the recesses of my mind... because it is. Life is so complicated. There is always so much to think about... to stress about. But for these folks, life is lived in that very moment. Emotions are raw, untainted, whether for the better or the worse, and in direct response to the given moment. Then? You move on. Everyone is your friend. Life is just good. I am not trying to exalt a trite "Ignorance is bliss" theme to life. It's just one small joy of working with these athletes that rises and covers all else like a thin mist. Just stop. Cheer. Enjoy where you are and what you're doing. The rest of life is waiting for you when you get there.

It's also a true testament to sportsmanship. Special Olympic athletes enjoy the sport, they enjoy being with their teams, and they enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. And although they are so glad you are there to cheer them on... they would play just as hard and have just as much fun if you weren't.

My Key Clubbers are an incredible bunch of kids. Most, I believe would never ridicule someone less intellectually developed than them. But what happens during Special Olympics is this flow of a general attitude from "Awww, she's so cute" to "Wow! She's awesome." The experience humanizes someone they see so different from themselves and cheering on someone who is so quick and open to wanting to be your friend makes the effect of the gift of your time and  attention tangible.

I really need to find more opportunities to work with this population, for myself and for my Key Clubbers.

Following a long, cold, and windy day cheering from the soccer sidelines, we stopped at Cici's Pizza before heading home. My bill was $385, which I just find humorous. I like to say, "Michelle Duggar's got nothing on me."

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