What We Can Learn From A Special Olympian About Coping With Covid-19

    As we collectively deal with the impact of Covid-19 and the fear and anxiety it is creating, we are witnessing people display behaviours that are the worst and best of us.   On the negative front, we have seen people go immediately into hoarding mode, stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer with only their needs being a concern. Even worse are the people who refuse to practice social distancing, recklessly hanging out on beaches and continuing to party.  As Thomas Friedman of the N.Y. Times said about these folks, “Just what planet are you living on?” On the positive front, we saw acts of kindness at grocery stores, where people looked out for senior citizens, helping them shop, making sure they had the food they needed. Of course, the greatest act of courage is the work our nurses and doctors are doing on the front lines of this war against the virus as they selflessly risk their health to save others.

Special Olympics Interview with Mark Milliere

These two extremes of behaviour we have been experiencing made me think of the athletes of Special Olympics.  For anyone who has been involved in Special Olympics or had the opportunity to watch them compete, you quickly understand they represent the best of human nature.  When they compete, they truly live their motto, “Let me win. But if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt.” I wondered what a Special Olympic athlete is thinking on what is happening and how they are coping.  Like the rest of society, all of their programs have been shut down. So, I asked a Special Olympian named Andrew I got the pleasure of knowing at the National Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia two summers ago how he was meeting the challenge.  Andrew is a multi-sport athlete who competes and trains year-round in Special Olympic programs. In a recent text exchange with Andrew, he gave me this advice on dealing with the required isolation, “Workout if you have home equipment. Wash your hands every day.  Stay healthy. Be safe. We are all in this together.”

Like all my experiences with Special Olympians, Andrew had the right perspective.   Take the steps to keep healthy and keep everyone else healthy. Simple. Straightforward.  Special Olympians have a great ability to cut out the noise and focus on what really matters.   We can all take that cue during this crisis. Compete hard against this virus (let me win), and be good sportspersons in the process (brave in the attempt).  Let’s work together to flatten this curve.