The last few days I have watched the Paralympics with awe, plus a decided degree of disbelief. How do they do this? Why do they do this? What makes these men and women so amazing?
The scenes are transformative. Teams from seemingly every nation competing and cooperating. There are medals to be won, and the athletes are proud to receive them. What every athlete who made the team tells us is they have already won what’s important – their independence.
When asked how they acquired such seemingly impossible skills; without exception they said: I focus on what I can do, not what I cannot do. I focus on what I have, not what I do not have. I focus on being a participant in life, not a victim. And, because so many people have given so much to me, I focus on what I can give back.
Take Susannah Scaroni who just won Gold in the grueling 500-meter track and field, wheelchair. Now 30 years old she had a spinal cord injury at age 5. Asked how it felt after all her years of practice, of advocating for the Paralympics to receive equal recognition as the Olympics - she said I just want to have every person feel equal to their abilities so they can grow.
All the athletes give credit to their families, friends, and coaches. They thanked the ones who did not immediately rush to pick them up when they fell. Or, if they were sightless, did not remove obstacles they bumped into. The ones who anguished whether to help an athlete tie his shoelaces with his toes. The patient ones. The ones who allowed these athletes to grow, to improve their abilities, reach their potential.
These elite athletes teach lessons for all of us. So, on our marks … focus on what we can do – we might just surprise ourselves. Perhaps not Gold, but we’ll be in the race, and that’s something.