“I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.” – These are the words Harriet Tubman spoke the first time she crossed the Mason-Dixon line and realized she had made it- she was free.
Like many others around the world I love to watch the Olympics. There is nothing more inspiring to me than to watch a young person achieve a dream they have spent their lives working for. These amazing athletes entertain and motivate us, and many of them excel to this level because a positive life circumstance has paved their way forward. Yes, they do the work every day to become these impeccable athletes – but chances are, they wake up each morning to an alarm clock blaring their favorite songs, and a comfortable lifestyle that includes among other things, deeply devoted parents.
The medalists that I always watch for are the ones who are called out of their beds each morning by a different tune. These athletes seldom make it to the podium proper, yet they are champions in the truest sense of the word- and the media usually find a few of them because they make for good TV.
I saw a fascinating Olympic documentary many years ago, and since then have watched closely for a subset of athletes. This program detailed the surprising number of Olympic athletes who have endured tragedy and hardship in their lives. Although all manner of hardship was detailed, one of the themes that seemed to repeat was that of parental loss. This was particularly meaningful to me because I so often work with children who are grieving the loss of a mother or father.
Trying to help a child re-invest their faith in the world after the loss of a parent is a monumental task- one that takes a village. Ever since seeing that show, whenever I work with a grieving child, I always bring a village with me – an Olympic village. Time and time again I have referenced the fact that many of the world champions among us, have endured unimaginable losses, including the loss of a parent. Although I never imply that there are droves of these athletes, I do point out that there are quite a few that belong to this elite and un-enviable club. If there is a message I have tried to instill in these children, it is that sometimes the things that feel like they are breaking us – are instead making us into champions who will emerge at a later date.
I hope for a few of these children, the conversations that we shared have stuck, and they are watching these Olympic games and getting a glimpse of their fellow countrymen. There is an entire team of athletes who are natives of a land that most of us have never been to –they are the ones who have been trained by the unspeakable event of a life altering tragedy. These medalists may have crawled before arriving to the games – but once they arrive at their podium- they always get the gold.