This I Believe

Anthony - Palm Desert, California
Entered on January 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in life, people say that they are not prejudiced, and do not discriminate. This is impossible, as I know all people are innately biased. We base our judgments of others on common stereotypes and preconceived conceptions. They only way to escape this is to take time to meet a different group of people, as you soon start to respect them for who they are. At the Special Olympics, I was able to shed some of my ignorance.

Before this experience, I could only relate to mentally handicapped people with a vague, ignorant perspective. I never contemplated life from their shoes, let alone take the time to converse with them. This was evident in the first practice, as I became shy as I met all the new faces; it was not only my first time coaching others, but also my first time at the Special Olympics. The medium to break the ice became my knowledge of basketball, as I could engage myself in the new surroundings by demonstrating a basic lay-up drill. Quickly I was transformed from an apprehensive outsider to a friend on the court. As time progressed, the bond I had with the team was tangible. I had grown to love the feeling of being appreciated, which was highlighted in the smiles of all the athletes when I arrived at the gym. It gave me an ineffable realization, as I could see I was positively inspiring the athletes to compete as I transferred my love for the game to them.

At the Special Olympics, I truly felt appreciated. This positive reaction encouraged me to become more involved, and I attended the required classes to become an official certified coach. Coaching at the Special Olympics will be something I’ll always be involved with, and has reaffirmed my participation in volunteer activities. This was a chance to challenge myself; a chance to go outside of my usual boundaries and make friends with people I would not normally come in contact with. Equally important it has shown me firsthand the fallacy of judging others with preconceived biases. I now have a greater respect for diversity, and the Special Olympics proved to me the importance of taking the time to know a person instead of validating superficial judgments.

When my basketball season started, and I saw many of the athletes I coached in the stands, it gave me a feeling I cannot accurately express in words. The bond I developed with the athletes is far greater than I ever would have anticipated, and it has encouraged me to not only continue my work at the Special Olympics, but pursue other community service activities. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I have had Special Olympics. I realized we shared an ineffable bond dissimilar to any typical team, and that coaching at the Special Olympics was an experience that will always have an impact on my life and the way I view the world.