The following is a guest post from a Special Olympics Florida volunteer.
Thanks to Special Olympics, I have a new appreciation for dragons. While volunteering for the Summer Games this past May, I met an athlete named Mary who spent an hour taking me deep into another realm, teaching me everything I could ever want to know about these mystical creatures. She told me about the various species and their characteristics, along with which video games I could find them featured in, just in case I ever wanted to experience their awesomeness first hand. Before meeting Mary, I never would have given dragons a second thought, but now I can’t imagine why I never had an interest in them in the first place. She spoke of them with so much excitement that I couldn’t help but be entranced – not only by the dragons and their endless magical abilities, but also by my new friend.
Meeting people like Mary is my favorite part about volunteering for Special Olympics. With passions burning hotter than any dragon’s fire-breath, the athletes’ enthusiasm engulfs everyone around them. As I spoke with Mary, she touched a bit on her life, telling me how her mother had recently passed away and how she missed her more than anything. Sadness flitted across her face, gone as quickly as it came. At once she started to talk about dragons again, pulling me back into her comfort zone, her features relaxed and her eyes glowing with excitement. I threw myself into what she was saying, giving her my full attention as she described more than just a fabled creature, but the glue that was holding her together.
It is a privilege to be included in another person’s passion and an honor to gain citizenship into their world. Not many people are as easy to talk to as those that I have met through Special Olympics – an organization in which I have learned about others in a way I had never been able to before. That day, I got to step inside Mary’s mind. I realized that everyone goes through difficult times, but one can either choose to dwell on the hardships or focus on what makes them happy. Volunteering for Special Olympics means more to me than earning a few community service hours. It has helped me realize what I want my purpose in life to be. I want to help those who go through difficulties daily to find what makes them smile. I want to be their biggest fan through their ups and downs. I want to spread the positivity that is radiating from the minds of people like Mary.