The past month Matt and I have been on a running program to get ready for the Bunny Run for Special Kids 5K. My love for the Special Kids program first started because of a friend I met in college…
Within a few weeks of moving to Alabama for school, I found a church with a college ministry I loved. I quickly joined a freshman Bible study hoping to make some new friends since I moved to college knowing no one! The leader of my group wanted us to find a place to serve in Tuscaloosa, and she had a connection with the the Special Olympics swim team. She asked us to come and cheer on the team at their next practice.
I’m thinking that by “cheering on the team” we will be standing on the side clapping, yelling, you know… cheering. I didn’t think anything of it when she told us to wear swimsuits because we might get wet. I figured if they swam anything like I do, there might be a lot of splashing, after all it is a pool!
Boy, was I in for a surprise when we get there and we aren’t just cheering them on. No, we are fully submerged in the water and we are supposed to COACH these kids. Now, I don’t know if you remember or not, but I don’t really have an athletic bone in my body. I like to swim as much as the next guy, but I certainly won’t be winning any awards for technique or speed. To add to the pressure, they were going to Auburn for state competition in four weeks, so we needed to get busy.
Well, I dove in and was paired up with a guy named Kevin. Kevin was a teenager, but because of some medical issues he had been diagnosed at a child’s mental level. Kevin was funny, outgoing and a very hard worker. I knew it would be easy to work with him. What I did not know was how much Kevin would teach me.
I still remember that first competition like it was yesterday. Kevin was swimming in the 200m. While his illness had affected his mental capacity, physically he was very strong, a much better swimmer than me. During the competition, coaches could stand at the end to cheer the competitor on. I was so nervous for him because I knew how badly he wanted to win gold. We had practiced for hours and hours to increase his speed. Now, he was coming on the last leg of the race and he was dead even with one of the guys. I was screaming as loud as I could telling him to keep going, keep going! Suddenly, he was nearing the end and it seemed he might make it… he might win the gold. His hand hit the wall and I looked at the judge to see the scores. Sure enough, he had done it. Kevin’s parents were ecstatic. Hugs and high fives were given all around, but the moment I will forever treasure occurred when they handed him his gold medal. He carried it over to me so I could see it and he said, “I did it! I did it! You told me I could do it and I did it!”
Kevin knew where imagination and hard work can take you. He taught me that life isn’t worth anything unless you dream big… a lesson I carry with me to this day.