George and Friends Showcase Success

By Michael Coren

They had trained so very hard for the event. These Olympics were special, so very special. There were those who mocked the handicapped competitors as not really being athletes, but that was because such critics did not understand. George in particular had worked every day at his event, the 100-metre sprint. Pouring rain or intense heat, he was at the track every morning.

Not always easy when you are a young man with Downs Syndrome. Any parent of a challenged child; and most challenged men and women, will tell you that it's not so much the disability that causes the problems but the people who discriminate against you for having it.

When he was stared or laughed at, George responded with smiles. Not because he thought this was how he was supposed to behave, but because it was his nature. He could do nothing else. Such a response confused and worried some, but disarmed and charmed most.

The news that he had been selected to run in the games caused George to, quite literally, jump up and down. His parents had seen this many times before. Birthdays, Christmas, someone else in the house receiving good news. Odd, really, that he should be thought of as handicapped when his joy at his and other people's pleasure was so pure, so deep and genuine.

After what seemed like an endless wait the day of the event arrived. George was awake at dawn, and made sure, to their qualified delight, that his mum and dad were out of bed as well. He had washed himself so clean that he almost seemed to shine. The trip to the arena was peppered with questions about crowds, running, times and, most poignant of all, whether Grandma would be watching.

Grandma had died some years earlier. Hey, George knew this. He merely inquired, eminently reasonably, whether she would be looking down from heaven to see her favorite grandson run. He was told that she would. And she would.

A few last words of advice, and then out to the starting line. Eight athletes, with George in the middle. Instructions from the starter, and then the lightning blast from the gun. Off they sprang, with George as rapid as any of them. It was as if he could feel the wind lifting him from the ground.

But then disaster. His legs seemed to become tangled and before he knew what was happening he had fallen. He screamed.

It only took a moment for the other seven runners to leave him yards behind, but George's scream was so loud that they, and the crowd, all heard. Then, gradually, all of them stopped running. Instead of continuing on to victory they all turned around and walked back to where their fellow athlete had fallen.

George was crying now, and holding his cut knees close to his chest. The runners knelt down, cuddled him, wiped away the grit and blood from his legs, and picked him up. They put their arms around him, told him it would be okay. Then they linked arms, all eight, and walked forward. Together in a line, as one person, they crossed the finish line.

The crowd was silent. Then tears could be heard, then a roar of approval and love so loud that people in neighbouring houses came out of their homes to see what had happened.

As they crossed the line the runners cheered, and George began to jump again, to dance at the beauty and the grace of the moment.

His parents cried and held one another very tight, the organizers hurriedly got hold of seven extra gold medals, other athletes ran to the eight heroes and patted them on their backs so hard that it hurt. Grandma merely smiled along the golden rays of the sun's warm embrace. This was community, this was goodness, this was the way it was supposed to be.

As for George, he couldn't stop talking about how hard the ground had been when he fell over. "Did you see me fall mum, did you see me fall?" Yes, his mum said. But more important, she had seen him rise. And seen God's love for all his creatures on glorious display.


Michael Coren is a renowned columnist, broadcaster and author. An extended version of this article is about to appear in a book entitled Mere Christian, published by Augsburg Fortress Press. Visit Michael's website to order books, read sample columns, and check out his broadcasting and speaking schedules.


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