All of a sudden, one of the runners inadvertently trips the runner in front of her. Both fall to the track.
If you watched any of the Olympics you know the race I am referring to. What happened next has been heavily reported as iconic of the “Olympic spirit.” The runner who accidentally tripped the other runner, rather than running on, reached over and helped her up. In the process of assisting, she discovered that the other runner was hurt. The good news is she did go on to finish the race. And the two embraced after crossing the finish line!
As many of you know, I am a big fan of sports. So as you might imagine, I enjoy the Olympics. I love rooting for athletes from around the world as they excel at that which they have worked so hard to accomplish. As a coach, I appreciate the hard work of both the athlete and those supporting them. Yet beyond the athleticism, what really inspires me is the overall dynamic of the Olympics. After almost every competition, the first people to congratulate and embrace the winner or winners are individuals from other teams.
I have watched the Olympics as long as I can remember. These Olympics have felt different. The world has felt very divided. Although the context of the Olympics is set in competition, the spirit feels very much about coming together. How is it that highly competitive people can come together and not only celebrate their competitors’ victory, but help them up when they stumble while many others can’t even be in conversation with their neighbors?
Here’s my take: a significant number of these athletes from around the world have spent time with each other in other competitions leading up to the Olympics. This time together has provided the opportunity to have conversations and to get to know each other. As familiarity has increased, so has both appreciation and respect for not only who the others are as athletes, but also as human beings. So much so that when the other falls, of course the natural response is to help out – when they excel, of course you celebrate.
Hmmm, sounds a lot like what Paul wrote to the faith community in Corinth describing that while there are many members there is one body:
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26