Life as a race
During the 1976 Spokane Special Olympics’ 100 meters dash an athlete stumbled and fell soon after the starting gun fired. He started to cry. A fellow girl athlete heard him so she went back to him to give him a peck on the cheek. She then clapped her hands and danced a little and told him: ”there, that’ll make it all better!”
In our own lives there are so many starting guns. The alarm clock; the phone ring; the quarterly deadline; the monthly rent bill; the end of the year bonus; the final exams schedule… We mindlessly start the run. We wish and hope for a great finish. The golden career; the ideal body; employee of the year; tenures; retirement; pensions; meeting others’ expectations; meeting our own expectations… We dash toward them like mad.
Yesterday I took a moment away from the insane race and stopped to smell the roses, quite literally. TEDx UW took me back to my University in Waterloo. During lunch I went for a stroll around my old stomping ground. Like an immigrant who went back to his own country, so much has changed. Where we played hacky sack now a shiny building stands. Where thousands of nervous students waited for their interviews now a padlock keeps the silence. The only old friends are the trees and the flowers with their autumn colours. They are still as beautiful as I remembered.
I am proud of my university. Our president became the Lieutenant Governor of Canada. Our professors won the Nobel prize. Our graduates are leaders in innovation around the world. University of Waterloo, the spirit of Why Not? I took this to heart and let it guide me through life. Why Not?
If my school has changed, how have I grown? I came to this TEDx on my motorcycle, something I always wanted to do since University. So Motorcycle, check. I have left the career I was trained for and started a new one. Even though there is room to improve, I am very happy. So Happiness, check. I am now a blessed husband and father of my incredible family. So family, check. I have found my life’s mission, to “Share stories that matter with people who give a damn”. So direction, check. Thank you my Alma Mater, my nourishing mother. Your son is thriving and he knows it.
Chris Cummins told me another story. An old woman in Sweden named Hilde Back donated $12 a month to a foundation in Kenya. She changed the life of one boy who then improved the lives of thousands. The only true finishing line in life is Death. How do we want to cross it is up to us. As just another rat race runner or as a champion who made a difference in the world?
In the latter half of that Spokane Special Olympics story the rest of the athletes heard the commotion and all came back to help the fallen boy. In an act that defies belief they decided to link arms and walk to the finish line together, as friends, as winners, as real human beings. For they know they are part of a Race, the Human Race.
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