My special needs granddaughter asked me if I was preaching at a church on Canada Day, which is also her birthday. When I answered yes, she asked, “Will you talk about Canada Day?”
“Well, yes,” I answered. Then I asked, “What is special for you about Canada Day?”
Without even taking a breath, she said, “I was born.”
Wisdom, I thought. She knows, with a sure and certain confidence, that her birth, her being brings joy and love to the world. She is God’s gift to us. Just as each one of us is God’s gift. The difference is that we don’t all know it, or are afraid to believe that we too are God’s precious gifts.
The best lesson my grand-daughter has given me is a much fuller understanding of God’s unconditional love. She teaches that lesson in so many ways. I learned it yet again last Saturday at the Special Olympics Track and Field meet in Pickering. Once again, I was amazed to experience a world in which judgment is suspended. Of course, these are competitive events, but the competition is different. The emphasis is not on being better than someone else. The emphasis is on improving your personal best. And even more important is that you exist, you are there, you are trying. As each person steps up to the throwing circle in the shot-put competition, he or she is cheered, not just by family and friends, but by everyone, including the other competitors. Whatever each does, words of encouragement follow. In this Special Olympics world the watchwords are, “Good job. Well done. Way to go,” words genuinely offered and excitedly received.
We cheered whether the shot put flew two feet or ten feet. We cheered when the first athlete, the second, the third, through to the last athlete, our grand-daughter, crossed the finish line of the fifty-meter sprint. All were congratulated for their effort given. Many of those cheering spectators didn’t know that for our granddaughter to walk that fifty meters without a companion to keep her balanced took tremendous courage. Still they yelled, “Way to go. Good job.” When her foot stepped over that line my eyes filled with tears.
I’m proud that our Canada is a part of the Special Olympics program. I’m proud of our granddaughter. By being who she is, I am challenged to live that Special Olympics attitude in my everyday relationships. She has taught me to focus on what is and let go of what isn’t. Our faith tells us that each person is God’s precious child. Our country Canada is populated with people of many races, colors, creeds, shapes, ages and capabilities. In Canada I can live respect, and love for each one of them. On Canada Day, I give thanks that God and Canadians love diversity.
By Rev. Janet Stobie