Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving - "over the river and through the traffic" ...

Holidays no longer hold the same power as they once did for me. In these days of far more funerals than christenings, awareness of who is not at the table becomes painfully sharp. There's no longer a need for a children's table. Our youngest are now old enough to sit with the grownups -- it's been several years since we've needed a highchair. The next wave of babies is not yet here. We're all aging ... .

Noticing the competitiveness of everything around me today. ESPN is bringing football from every quarter of the country into our living room while on other channels are featured re-runs of the new genre of reality shows that are the epitome of "you're out" television. We've turned everything into competitions for favor, for money, for careers, for oil and stocks and bonds and elective office, for a place in the chorus line, 24-hour slot machines, for cosmetic surgery, for a spot on the catwalk, and finally, for King of the World!

Remembering the day that I sat high up in the bleachers at Edwards Field, University of California at Berkeley -- overhearing a conversation between two men who coached Special Olympic athletes who at that moment stood far below at the starting line -- in their blocks and ready for the 100 yard dash. "Working with the retarded is difficult," says one, "... you have to teach them to look down as they run. If they catch a glimpse of runners in the next lanes -- they will simply run alongside." Maybe this is a more natural way of performing -- at least before we're taught to compete."

Remember laughing some time later as I watched the San Francisco Bay To Breakers marathon with all of its craziness and color. Here were thousands of people of every size, shape, sexual orientation, skin color, wild costume, running alongside and loving it. The real runners ran far up ahead (the Kenyans, of course) seriously competing for fame and fortune. But it was the nutty ordinary folks who walked, ran at any pace, laughed and joked until they reached Footstock in Golden Gate Park and the great party that followed.

Dorian and her equally handicapped friend, Chris, are in the livingroom watching the Thanksgiving Day parade while I do the chopping and mixing in the kitchen. They're talking about their up-and-coming Special Olympics bowling tournament where they'll be lucky to break 75 out of a possible 300 but will come home bedecked with ribbons and tee shirts emblazoned with the Special Olympics logo. And every other athlete will do the same as they've done for many years.

I'm aware of the number of email pleas for contributions to organizations I respect and admire -- created by political allies whom I trust -- and am aware of the ultimate competition for power those pleas represent. If I answer them all appropriate to my trust and sense of rightness, I'll need another job or a far higher salary. I'm helpless to respond, except in a token way and with the hope that there are enough small fish like me doing what they can to support this nation in what may prove to be the final competition before we collapse into non-relevance and another more worthy national competitor moves forward to take our place in the world arena.

Is there nothing for which we are not willing to write a rule book and offer prizes?

Dance Sport as an olympic event?

Have we lost our collective First World minds?

Photo: Special Olympics swim meet. Dorian is third line in this March of the Athletes, 2005.

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