Sixth place out of six, that is. Because sixth place is still worth something.
Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in a world without everyone getting a trophy. You had winners. You had losers. I played basketball (very poorly), and if I was lucky, they would let me in for the last minute or two of the game, when my playing couldn’t affect the final score. I was one of the official bench warmers. And I was okay with that because I knew I wasn’t good at it. But I tried. I didn’t expect a reward for trying. I would skip the award dinners because, well, I wasn’t getting an award, and the dinners weren’t really that great.
But that’s not the same for Simon.
Simon is in Special Olympics. This past Saturday was his bowling tournament.
In Special Oympics, everyone is included. Everyone plays.
Some of the kids there can’t handle crowds. Some can’t handle waiting. Some can’t handle noise. Some can’t handle sitting still. Some can’t walk. Some can’t speak.
And that’s all okay.
Because it’s Special Olympics.
The pledge they recite before the games begin is always the same:
“Let me Win. But if I Cannot Win, Let Me Be Brave in the Attempt.”
They are all brave.
They push past what makes it hard for them. Some of them wear special noise-cancelling headphones. Some of them roll up in their wheelchairs and push the ball down a ramp. Some of them need to have a coach or assistant down in the bowling area with them. But they do it. And they’re proud of doing it. And they have fun doing it. They have fun being involved. They have fun competing. They have fun knowing that they are being like every other kid out there – win or lose, they are playing.
So Simon got sixth place out of six. And he stood there, tall and proud, while they put the ribbon around his neck. And we stood there, tall and proud and taking pictures, knowing that he made it through another tournament, through all the things that normally would bother him, and through two hour of focus.
Our current schedule for Mondays is that Patrick comes home early to get Simon off the bus because I have class until 3:50. Then I come home after class, and we normally hang out, hit the store, whatever. Today, I got home, and Simon immediately let me know what tomorrow is: the rodeo!
He loves the rodeo.
It’s the Galveston County Rodeo, and every year, they offer a ‘Special Kids Day.’
It’s free, and it’s awesome fun. They have a short rodeo, complete with barrel riding, bull riding (teenagers trying to win scholarships – it’s very unique to see a high school boy trying to hang on to a bull for 8 seconds…especially for those of us from NJ who never thought of bull riding as a high school sport), and roping. Then the kids get free rides on whatever they open up in the carnival, and they get to play games that they always win and get little prizes. Simon normally gets at least one stuffed animal and hops on the merry go round.
So that’s where we’ll be tomorrow, bright and early.
Simon will hop the bus to school, eat his breakfast, and then hop the bus to the rodeo.
We, meanwhile, will eat our breakfast and then head to the rodeo and meet up with him and the rest of his class. Hopefully the rain will hold off until the afternoon!