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Welcome to Right Here, Right Now July 20, 2020

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“But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.”

 

– quoted from “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley ©1987

There’s a little essay I often read at the end of classes on July 20th. It’s called “Welcome to Holland” and it was first brought to my attention by my best friend from undergrad (a pediatrician) when I told him that another good friend of my had a newborn who was born with Down’s Syndrome. I now know that while some parents appreciate the piece, others are critical of it and how it seems to minimize their experience as parents of children with special needs. Obviously, you should decide for yourself. For me, someone who hasn’t had the personally experience, I still think of it as a beautiful reminder to stay in the present moment; to be right here and right now. I mention it at the end of the July 20th classes, because it is relevant to part of today’s theme and the importance of focusing on what you are doing – and what you are capable of doing – in this moment, as opposed to focusing on what you are not doing, or not capable of doing, in this moment.

“Like diabetes, deafness, polio or any other misfortune, [intellectual disabilities] can happen in any family. It has happened in the families of the poor and the rich, of governors, senators, Nobel prizewinners, doctors, lawyers, writers, men of genius, presidents of corporations – the President of the United States.”

 

– quoted from a September 22, 1962 article by Eunice Kennedy Shriver printed in The Saturday Evening Post

When he was elected as President of the United States, very few people outside of his family knew that John F. Kennedy had a younger sister with an intellectual disability. Her name was Rosemary Kennedy and she was the third born child of a family that would continuously present itself (and be remembered) as the epitome of what it meant to be American: white, Christian, sober, happy, straight, free, loyal, drama-free, promising, healthy, wealthy, and wise. The reality, however, was a little different. Yes, the family was very active, very ambitious, and very successful. They were also plagued by tragedy and even President Kennedy had severe health problems – which were hidden from the public for most of his life. Also hidden, until the 1960’s: Rosemary’s intellectual disability.

When it became obvious that their eldest daughter was never going to catch up to her brothers, Joseph and Rose Kennedy were told the best place for Rose was in an institution. She could be hidden away and they wouldn’t have to worry about her. They wouldn’t have to think about her at all. But, in a sentiment their son would later echo to the nation, the Kennedy parents were not focused on what her presence would do to them or their reputation; they were focused on what they could do for her. Rose Kennedy grew up with her siblings and they grew up with her. She loved music and dancing; she liked to dress up and have her hair, makeup, and nails done; she loved the outdoor things her family did, like rowing; and she lived children. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Except she couldn’t understand why her siblings’ friends wouldn’t dance with her, why she wasn’t trusted to take the smaller kids out on the water without another adult, or why (eventually) she wasn’t invited along to certain activities. Eventually, as an adult in her 40’s, Rose Kennedy did live in a home. She was not; however, erased or forgotten by her family and, in 1962, her younger sister Eunice wrote an article that made sure she would not be erased from the annals of history. Then, a few years later, Eunice would do something that ensured that Rose Kennedy (and people like her) would not be forgotten.

“Enough.”

 

– Eunice Kennedy

In the mid-60’s Eunice Kennedy heard about the work of Dr. James N. Oliver, a British researcher who published a paper in June 1958 which focused on the benefits of physical exercise and activity as it related to “sub-normal boys.” The research proved that physical activity benefited children in the classroom. Dr. Frank Hayden, a Canadian physical education professor, continued the research by organizing floor hockey games and proposing a national games program. As the public became more and more aware of this research, as well as through their own observations, families attempted to enroll their children in existing programs. The mainstream summer camps and public education systems, however, were not able to accommodate children with special needs. Let’s be real, most were not even willing to consider if they could. So, women started reaching out to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Kennedy Foundation. At some point, Eunice had had enough. Like Pearl S. Buck, she felt that if a program didn’t exist to fulfill a need, it was up to her to create that program.

Camp Shriver started with 24 children and 26 high school and college students as counselors. Just like at other summer camps, the kids at Camp Shriver swam, played basketball and soccer, and rode horses. They ate, played, and “sometimes got in trouble” with children who did not have special needs. One of those “normal” kids was Eunice’s own son Tim, who would grow up to be Chairman of Special Olympics.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

 

 – the (original) Special Olympics Athlete Oath

The first Special Olympics games were held today in 1968 in Soldiers Field in Chicago, Illinois. There were about 1,000 athletes from North America. Some people thought it would be a one-time affair; however, Eunice Shriver Kennedy had other ideas. At the first games she announced the formation of the Special Olympics organization and, 52 years later, Special Olympics has grown to include over 5 million athletes, 1 million coaches and volunteers, and over 100,000 competitions featuring 32 Olympic-style sports in 190 countries.

(Soak that in for a moment.)

Special Olympics and the International Paralympic Committee are recognized by the International Olympic Committee; however, Special Olympic Games are not held in the same year or in conjunction with the Olympic Games. Instead, Special Olympic events are held every day (with local, national, and regional events around the world) and the Special Olympic Games are held in two year cycles, recurring every fourth year, and alternating between summer and winter games. The next World Winter Games are scheduled for January 2022 (in Kazan, Russia). There are World Pre-Game events scheduled in Berlin in June 2022 and the actual World Games (also in Berlin) in June 2023.

People with intellectual disabilities often have physical healthy issues, and/or are at a higher risk for certain ailments. Because of health care disparities, and underlying health issues, the over 200 million people with intellectual disabilities (worldwide) die an average of 16 years earlier than their peers without disabilities. They are at a greater risk of contracting respiratory disease, pneumonia, and flu – which means they are in a high risk group for COVID-19. In the 1997, Special Olympics started “Healthy Athletes,” one of several initiatives that expand beyond the games. Healthy Athletes offers athletes access to free health screenings and health information. Additional health programming, like “Healthcare Inclusion for All,” focuses on improving the physical and social-emotional wellbeing of the over 200 million people worldwide with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics also organizes “Unified Sports” events, to break down stereotypes by continuing Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s work of integrating group sports activities, and “Young Athletes” events, which are early childhood play programs for  2 – 7 year old children with and without intellectual disabilities.

Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, July 20th) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga inspired by Special Olympics “School of Strength” programming.

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, in the spirit of generosity (dana), is freely given and freely received. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible, class purchases are not necessarily.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices. (But it is Carlos Santana’s birthday, so….)

 

### BIG HUGS ###

Comments»

1. Eileen O'Toole - July 20, 2020

BIG HUGS!!!


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