On an impossibly perfect early September Monday ten years ago, the lives of all Americans were marred by a shocking display of evil perpetrated by fanatics, igniting a war on terror that still rages today. I can still remember that fateful day as though it were yesterday. But it wasn’t yesterday, it was a decade ago . . .
My daughter was eight months old and all I could do was watch the news in horror, hugging and rocking my baby girl in my arms, tears falling helplessly on her classic pooh themed onesie.
But today, as we remember our fallen brothers and sisters, I am reminded that we can find today’s heroes in the most unlikely of places; yes, the world is still full of them, and sometimes you don’t have to look far to find them.
This weekend I had the pleasure of officiating a perfectly divine Jewish-Hindu wedding in New England. Exploring the magnificent countryside prior to the service my honey and I stopped by a newly renovated luxury hotel in Watch Hill near Westerly, RI, where we humorously observed what seemed to be an abundantly full croquet field. I noticed that the collared polo-shirt wearing motley crew swarming the fields included a plethora of happy and hearty white-shirted volunteers wearing initialed visors and yellow tagged laniards.
One doesn’t often stumble upon croquet fields, much less croquet tournaments, but this wasn’t just a haphazard occasion and the players were anything but typical tournament types; they were members of SONK, the Special Olympics of New Kingston, Rhode Island’s first special olympics croquet contingency. And a more proud group you have never encountered.
After a brief conversation with a couple of volunteers, two players joined us for more chit chat and some photos. One, a dark haired young woman with a wide smile commented on how much she liked my crystal necklace – an amethyst & smoky quartz combination, and I explained that the stone held some special properties. Her face beaming, she grabbed my hand before pulling out a chain that lay hidden by her t-shirt to reveal her own silver wire wrapped crystal.
“Me too . . .I wear this one and it helps me too.”
As a longtime advocate of on and beyond the spectrum children, I was moved beyond words. Her innocent exuberance touched me so deeply and I felt more than a connection, I felt a deep humbleness that she shared her special “good luck charm” – the symbol that helps her when she is afraid, uncertain or alone.
And the quiet strength of the volunteers who flanked this young woman, and all of the other players; these amazing human beings who so lovingly give of their free time, hearts and minds, in that moment, were beautiful reminders that there is inherent bravery in each of us.
On the anniversary of 9/11 it was this kind of selfless bravery that reminded me a hero is anyone who chooses to face adversity, overcome challenges and live the fullest, most joyful life possible. As all of us turn back and remember the pain of a decade ago, it is nice to be able to look to today, to see where our indomitable human spirit has taken us.
God bless the Special Olympics and God bless America.