February 20, 2014

5 Olympic Lessons (and a Little Jane Austen)

February may be the month of love, but it's also the wonderful start time of the Winter Olympics. Although I'm not a huge all around sports fan, I've been disappointed to hear less buzz and excitement this year from family and friends, especially via social media. 
Is it all advertising and propaganda? I'm sure it's there, but I like to focus on what we can learn from participating in a world event that brings out the best in citizens around the globe. Here's my top 5 favorite Olympic lessons:

1. Never, Never Quit.
My brother once had a poster of a frog being eaten by a pelican. The joke was the frog's legs were around the bird's throat so it couldn't swallow. If there's anything that can inspire us not to give up just because we fall down, it's watching an Olympian skid across the ice or face plant into the snow--and get up again just to cross that red line. Dead last doesn't matter. When it really comes down to it, it's all about the finish. I like that. 

2. Attitude Determines Altitude
I first saw this quote in college plastered across a dorm room wall. While I may have found it a little Pollyanna at the time, it's stuck with me because it's true. Every athlete in the winter games has a positive attitude from start to finish. What great examples. This Olympics I was touched by a snowboarder celebrating his teammate's medal finish after he himself had just crashed and lost a chance for a medal--for the third time! This young man's attitude clearly got him where he is today, and showed the world he can be a team player and a class act. 

3. Your Best is Good Enough
It's profound, and it's true. I rarely see an athlete give his best and look devastated if it doesn't mean a medal. I keep this quote taped on the wall in my office and look at it every time an online school assignment comes back with a less than perfect score. I focus on it when I worry about how much exercise I'm working in each week. More importantly, when I get stats for book sales or a less than glowing book review, I remind myself that no matter the outcome, my very best is good enough--for God and for me. 

4. We are our Brother's Keeper

When we watch the Olympics, we have the opportunity to see faces and learn a little about the everyday lives of our brothers and sisters around the world. The contagious enthusiasm we share as we cheer on Olympic hopefuls sets our differences aside. Politics, religion, customs, and culture become less important that who we are: a world-wide community. This Olympics I loved the ski coach who raced onto the snowy track to hand an athlete from another country an undamaged pole so she could finish the race. The more we practice loving and serving one another, no matter what side of the tracks we're on, the better the world will be. 

5. It is a Small World After All
I can't help but think about the excitement I feel every time I watch the Jamaican bobsled team perform. They make me smile, clap, and want to sing. What is the best lesson the Olympics teaches us? We are all one big family; each of us trying to find happiness and peace on the same planet. We're all we have for the moment, and these sporting events show us that prejudice, hatred, and war aren't necessary. If we can cheer, laugh, and cry for one another, surely there are solutions to be found if we meet at the table determined to come together in peace. 

Despite all the party poopers, at its core, I don't believe the spirit of the Olympics has waned. It's still an inspiring experience watching athletes of all ages compete in cool events. Their hard work parallels our own hopes and dreams. Of course, living in the South I'll never a have a chance to try luge or learn how to snowboard, but as Lady Catherine de Bourgh obnoxiously remarks in Pride and Prejudice, "If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient." Or so I like to think.  

Stay balanced,
~Danielle Thorne

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