Brave in the Attempt

Let me win.
But if I cannot win,
let me be brave in the attempt.
— Special Olympics Athlete's Oath

This weekend, Loretta and I had the incredible privilege of being a part of "Serve Day" through our church, Calvary Community in Westlake Village. Circled on our calendar for weeks, serve day is appropriately named; simply a day to come together in order to love on the surrounding community. Here we are pictured with over 1,200 of our closest friends. That's me, waving. 

Sporting our t-shirts, we gathered on the lawn, held hands and just prayed that God would allow us to spread the gospel while helping those in need. And while we could have chosen any number of projects; from home repairs to ranch renovations to senior living assistance, Loretta and I signed up to help facilitate the swimming competition of the Special Olympics in our area. Cue the opening ceremonies and tears.

Loretta was given the job of awarding the medals, while my primary purpose was to help escort the athletes from one side of the pool to the other after each race. See, they'd swim, get out of the water and there I was; smiling, clapping, and wrapping them in a towel. But I had one primary obligation: get them to their prize.

Many of you know me well enough to realize that I could spend an entire week drenched by what I witnessed near the pool on Saturday. I could allow a thousand words to fail miserably at describing Denise.

Denise was a real warrior.  The other kids had all but exited the pool as she approached her finish. With 15 feet left to swim, she sank. Hands moving, feet kicking, but body bobbing. Her swim cap would appear long enough for her to grab some air and down she'd go. Lifeguards at the ready with coach on hands and knees at the finish line, my heart eventually found it's way out of my stomach once she safely made it to the edge. By the time she was out of the pool, we all knew two things: her name and that she's a fighter.

Ryan could also easily take up residence with us if I'd let him. Ryan won first place early in the day, and every time I'd walk by him, he'd show me his gold medal as if it were for the first time. And for all I knew, to him it was. Later in the day I noticed him showing it to others, but it had broken away from the ribbon portion. But by the look on his face, I think he knew that even though it was a little broken, he still won and it was still his.

But it was something Mike said that stuck with me all day. As if being catapulted out of the deep end, Mike needed no escort to the awards ceremony. All but sprinting he wanted nothing to do with a towel. He just marched me there proclaiming, "I did it. I did it. I did it." Must have beaten his own record, I reasoned. Smiling ear to ear atop the 10-inch podium, he bowed his head, got his 3rd place bronze medal placed around his neck and then made his way back to where many of the spectators were gathered, but not before writing today's entry for me.

I did it, he said once again as he looked me square in the eye; almost as if to give me a heads-up that something cool was coming. And for the first time since getting out of the water - with friends and family gathered - he let us in on his secret:
"I never stopped."

- Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: It's impossible to be bold in the presence of the brave. This weekend taught me that I'm neither. And I am so honored to have been an eyewitness to the sacred this weekend. And as if he hadn't exploded my heart enough, while the others in the group were getting dressed, Mike stood among them shouting a question, "We're all going to eat together? Yes!" he said with a fist pump.

Mike was right. In this life, we serve. In the next, we eat. Together. Yes!

May we never stop.