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It's not the triumph that counts but the struggle

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

I love the Olympics. It’s not an addiction, but it is a seriousI love to listen to the stories that accompany each entrant.

I love to watch and admire the athletic ability. I cry with each defeat as much as I scream with delight when victory is claimed.

I even thrill with the repeated message that comes in an ad via the deep basso of Morgan Freeman’s voice.

I hear the cry as my own challenge: “There are six billion of us. We all come from unique places with unique ways of looking at the world. We don’t always agree, but for a few shining weeks, we set it all aside. We come together to stand and cheer and celebrate as one. We forget all the things that make us different and remember all the things that make us the same.”

For me, this is more than a series of competitions. It is more than the discovery of the fittest and fastest, the most agile and able. The commercial message ends with the words, “Go, World!”

It is a clear reminder we are in this Olympiad as members of the human family, brothers and sisters testing each other’s strength but never rejoicing in weakness.

They are games of compassion and empathy not derision. When there is victory, we all win. When there is failure, we all feel the pain.

The Olympic games present a metaphor for life. Our human journey into wholeness and wholesomeness, into gracious goodness, is an extended Olympiad and we are in it together.

The competition exists only to hone our skills, to stretch us, to make certain that we are in daily practice of our human ability to be and become all for which God has already qualified us.

Unlike bowl games or PGA tournaments or other annual events that afford a yearly opportunity to test our mettle, the Olympics call for long-range preparation over a period of four years. They remind us quick fixes won’t do the trick, but steady, serious training will.

With the cautionary note we will fall, fail and get up again, they keep us mindful it’s not the triumph that counts; it’s the struggle.

In the Olympiad of our life, we will all have triumphs and failures. We will fall and fail. Despite embarrassment, frustration, self-recrimination, we determine to get up again. We are both individually involved and part of a team.

We don’t want to let ourselves or our teammates be defeated. At the same time, we know the fragility of success and the fear of failure and it is the struggle that counts. It is the struggle that keeps us going, believing, trying and growing.

It is the struggle together that deepens our humanity and intensifies our compassion.

It is the struggle that pierces our differences and brings us into a common understanding of loyalty. That same struggle tugs at the hearts of each athlete and allows tears to flow at the sound of their own national anthem when they are standing on the podium as representatives of their country.

In each one, individual and community meet. Their talents are personal and universal. They bear their own identity and carry with them the identity of a whole nation.

So do we. Each day of our lives, we are both individual persons and representatives of the entire human family.

Our heroic efforts give courage to those who feel weak and dispirited. Our continued attempts bolster those in difficulty. When we bravely get up and try again, after falling or making a mistake, we also strengthen others to follow suit.

The Olympic games represent long days, weeks and years of preparation. They are the culmination of untiring efforts against all odds. Endlessly repetitive, each move, choice and decision permeates the being with determination.

There is commitment in the challenge and challenge in the commitment and the final competition is a massive celebration of those efforts.

Beijing’s opening ceremonies underscored humanity’s yin and yang, its light and darkness, noise and silence, ups and downs.

One could only gasp with delight and awe at the sight of massive numbers of people choreographed to move as one. At the same time, a lone dancer highlighted the controlled movement, grace and impressive power of one person.

Despite caustic comments about the amount of money spent on this endeavor, the negative judgments the Chinese may be attempting to demonstrate an opulence and extravagance that belied the poverty plaguing their outlying provinces, I would like to believe the costumes and pageantry, the choreography and fireworks are also displays of national hospitality.

I would hope they would be an impetus for a universal outreach toward peaceful resolutions to world turmoil.

My prayer is these games become a part of the fabric of our being rather than war games. My prayer is we might view the yin and yang of life as we do the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides—necessary for our wellbeing.

I pray we will not forget we are all members of the human family, God’s family. We need each other. We can test each other, but we must also rejoice with each success and cry with each failure, whether or not it is our own.

We must also keep in mind it is not the triumph that counts, but the struggle.

When that understanding enters our hearts as well as our heads, when it becomes our internal motivation and the focus of our actions, we can truly come together to stand and cheer and celebrate as one.

We can forget all the things that make us different and remember all things that make us the same. Then we can shout: “Go, World!” and really mean it.

Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master's degree in theology and is the author of, “AWAKENING TO GOD: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of scriptural meditations], leadchaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader and lecturer.