I must be living under a rock. I know the Olympics are on, but I have been working and revising my novel so I have not seen them yet. Apparently, there was a big to-do about the women's gymnastics and one of the ladies named Alicia Sacramone messed up on her balancing beam routine. Wow, I thought when I first read this. What a disappointment. That must mean the team didn't get any medals. Wrong. They received the silver medal. Second best. However, Sacramone looked devastated, biting her lip, trying not to cry. Now there's a debate about the true age of the girls on the China team, but Sacramone still thinks she messed it up for her team.
Well Alicia, I don't know if you'll ever read this, but I'm going to try to tell you some things. Martha Beck once wrote in her memoir Expecting Adam that after a speech she made about raising her son who has Down's syndrome has made her more spiritual. Beck was in the restroom when a woman approached her and said, "I just want you to know what happened to you happened to me, yet I made the wrong choice!" Before Beck could comfort her, the woman ran away crying. Beck then proceeds to call the woman a soul sister, and tell her she's gone through hell once, she doesn't have to go through it twice.
I'm going to try and do the same thing here. Alicia, soul sister, let me tell you something. You didn't let anyone down. You came in, you did the best you could, and yeah, you stumbled. However, the last time I checked, the silver isn't too bad. It's what you make of it that matters. Besides, some people would love a silver medal.
When I was nine, I was enrolled in a gymnastics class. Nothing unusual about that. However because I had the worst coordination in the world because of my learning disabilities, I was enrolled in a class full of kids that had Down's syndrome. The kids were all very sweet towards me. However, I felt weird. It was bad enough that one girl asked me if I was half retarded at school because of my bad handwriting and math. Now that I was in a class full of Down's kids made it extra special. All the kids had a goal: Someday they were going to the Special Olympics. They were going to go to the Special Olympics and be stars. These kids would've loved to get any medal, be it gold, silver or bronze. My big goal was to get the hell out of the class.
I convinced my mother and grandfather that this class was not for me. I cried, I begged, I pleaded. Finally, I left the class, but I couldn't shake that feeling that no matter what, I would never be Normal. Someone who was good at everything. The only thing I knew I was good at was reading. Maybe writing. Otherwise, I felt like a failure. A failure at nine years old.
However, let me tell you something. Because of those years of feeling like a little failure at nine and ten, it made me grateful for everything I did well, be it writing, school, life. I might have to work harder than anyone else did, but I knew that somehow I was going to be okay. I knew I was going to make it through.
The Down's kids taught me something, even though I did not know it at the time: never give up. You will have people push you down just because they can. However, the important thing is to get up and keep going. If a situation is screwed up and not going to work out, then you walk away. Otherwise, you keep at it.
Alicia my soul sister, there is nothing wrong with silver. Think of the people that would have loved to come that far. You should not be ashamed. I can think of so many people lately who should be ashamed of their recent actions, be it John Edwards with his affair, and then Rush Limbaugh insinuating Elizabeth Edwards was to blame for the affair because she's intelligent. It's what you do with this moment that matters. You can train for 2012, or go professional. Never be ashamed of being a Silver Girl. In addition, always remember the lyrics of Natalie Merchant:
fate smiled & destiny
laughed as she came to my cradle
know this child will be able
laughed as she came to my mother
know this child will not suffer
laughed as my body she lifted
know this child will be gifted
with love, with patience
and with faith
she'll make her way.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries