With all of the news lately about the Trump administration in the person of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos looming to defund Special Olympics I thought I’d share a personal story about how I came to know more about this great institution.
As a younger man (a MUCH younger man) I had known about the Special Olympics and had even taken part in local fundraisers to help them out. That is about where my affiliation began and ended though. I was working for a man named Chuck Petersen who owned Chuck’s Deli. Chuck could be a hard man to work for but if he liked you, you were in. I, was in. I didn’t even begin to complete with the Special Olympic kids though! Chuck loved them and showed time and time again that he would do anything for them.
It so happened that the State Summer Special Olympics was held in our city. Along with providing food and his time, Chuck said that I needed to be a “hugger” after the athletes crossed the finish line. I explained that I would donate time or money but I didn’t want to be a hugger. He then explained to me that he would be fine with my position as long as I didn’t want to work for him. I hugged!
I think it probably took all of about two races for me to realize that this was one of the best things I had ever done. To see the sense of joy and accomplishment in their eyes and feel the unrestrained love in the hugs made me realize that they definitely had the name right, they were indeed very special!
That day changed me. I thought I was already a giving person, and I guess I was. That day I learned that I could always give more, one way or the other. That day I saw up close and personal, that a small thing like a hug isn’t a small thing at all! That day I learned that a hug can be remembered for decades to come. That day, I finished my day by giving Chuck Petersen a hug and telling him thank you.
Now’s not the time to defund The Special Olympics or even decrease its funding! Now is the time to understand what the organization does and how they do it. Now is the time to take a step back and realize we might not know everything, and learn some very important new lessons from the organization and the people they support.
Now is the time for all of us including Betsy DeVos and her boss to learn and then carry on the lessons that Chuck Peterson taught me.