THE REAL COMPETITORS

Brevard County's annual Space Coast Senior Games will be held next week, and the track and field events are scheduled for this Sunday. Like many others of my peers past the half-century mark, I will have a good time and take my best shot at a young man's game. Just being able to get the feeling once more of running fast and jumping is well-worth the effort and resulting soreness. Winning a ribbon is nice, but most of us do it for the chance to socialize, get out on the track, or to heft the shot and discus again. The kinesthetic sense of moving one's arms, legs, springing up, and twisting the torso bring back old memories, and redeem for an instant the feelings we had in our youth. It is harmless fun, and the liniment bottlers and Motrin manufacturers are the big winners.

Yesterday I visited Palm Bay's track to loosen up my legs and get a little practice. As I finished running 400 yards on grass I looked at my stopwatch, then wryly thought how much Father Time told me I'd regressed. Grumbling and feeling a little sorry for myself, I walked down the track to catch my breath before I sprinted 200 meters on the rubber surface. Breathing heavily, I noticed a teacher and a young aide were bringing a small class on the track. As I looked at the young kids, I saw many of them were walking with great difficulty, moving with an unequal gait, and some of them required concentrated effort as they limped badly down the track. My arrival had coincided with a session for physically disadvantaged students. I noticed that all of them were putting out, making good progress, and several of them smiled at me as they passed. A couple of them waved, and I raised my hand and smiled back. Still cooling off as I walked along the backstretch, I noticed one young boy of perhaps fourteen or fifteen who yelled ahead to his friend to wait. He bent over with determination, intent on tying the loose shoelaces that had caught his attention. They were quite long, and might well have tripped him. I nearly ran over to help, but had the sense to remain where I was and watch as he did the job by himself. He scurried off to catch up, and I was glad I'd stayed put. The self-sufficient should take care of themselves, and he did.

Now it is natural to grouse about slowing down, to grudgingly accept the fact we do things less well as the years pass by. I had done nothing worse. But today I'd immediately been faced with bright, cheerful youngsters who had never in their lives experienced the unfettered joy and freedom the body feels when simply running fast with natural balance and rhythm. Most of us can still remember that from childhood. They can't. May God forgive me my blind, insensitive arrogance and self-concern.

The chance meeting brought home to me the difficult job others are doing to give some less fortunate than ourselves opportunities we all take for granted. That teacher, and many like her, are giving kids the chance to experience the simple pleasure of going around a track, not as a Carl Lewis or Michael Johnson would do it, but going around it nevertheless. What is a mighty mountain to some may be just a hill to the rest of us, but innocent pleasure and accomplishment come with surmounting that hill. How moving and powerful it is to see the indomitable human spirit.

Those of you who have not been involved with a Special Olympics will do yourselves a favor if you assist in conducting one. The smiles I got on the track assure that. This year, you'll find me there helping the best I can.


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)