Jumping into the Atlantic Ocean. In February.
Now, you are asking the question, “How can that be?” If you give me five minutes, I will explain to you what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
Every year, I take part in the Lewes Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics of Delaware. It started out as a crazy dare over nine years ago. I thought it was a crazy thing to do on Super Bowl Weekend, all part of the big party.
At the time I was in it for the rush. Sure, all of the money raised goes to helping make sure that the Special Olympic Games can happen each year and that the athletes can compete. So, okay, there is a good cause associated with this crazy event. And I helped raise a few bucks along the way. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t know anything about Special Olympics or how to act around the Special Olympic Athletes. There was an avoidance factor there. I simply didn’t understand. Call it fear of the unknown. Unfounded fears based on a simple lack of information. “Are they contagious?” “They won’t understand me.”
I think many people have a fear of the unknown. But then, something happened. Something that changed it all.
As we were getting ready to plunge into the frigid waters of the Atlantic, I saw a young girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old. She was talking with one of the athletes. And they were laughing and giggling as they splashed in the water. I’m not sure who was braver that day. Didn’t matter. They were just two kids playing. Neither one cared that the other was different in some way. Didn’t matter. And it made me realize that what we were doing had a purpose.
Sure, it is crazy to swim in the ocean in February. But it was so much more than that. It inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and get to know these great kids. Find out why the Games are so important. For the Special Olympic athletes, it’s a chance to show the world how to overcome adversity. To strive to be the best when the deck is stacked against you. Nobody is going to break the land speed record. But it doesn’t matter. Win or lose, you see the biggest smiles you have ever seen. And that’s what it is all about. The competition. The chance to be out there with your peers, showing ’em what you got. And at the end of the day, you know what every Special Olympics Athlete has? Heart.
I’m inspired by the enthusiasm and the Never Quit attitude. You fall down, you get right back up. Sure, everyday life hands each of us our own set of challenges. Some choose to complain and be bogged down by them. But others tackle the challenge head on and move to the next challenge. That’s what I’ve learned working with Special Olympics athletes.
So, every February, I make the leap into the Atlantic Ocean and raise a few bucks for my friends. And if I can convince just one person to change their perspective of Special Olympics athletes, then I have won the day.
If you would like to plunge with me and my team “The Rockin’ Plungers” on February 5th, click here for details. Or if you’d prefer a different way to dive in, click here to make a donation. Either way, it’s the warmest feeling.