Over the past two weeks we have been allowed to marvel at the amazing feats of participants at the Olympic Games- very different talents, disciplines and training. But perhaps the biggest revelation has been, that behind their achievements, these superheroes/heroines are ordinary people. They face the same emotional challenges as us earthbound mortals. It has been a wonderful additional facet of the televisual presentation to get behind the achievement to the actual person. What’s my story? has added much greater perception and understanding of the individual challenges that each participant has had to overcome.
It is too easy to fall into clichéd categorisation of achievement ascribed purely on what they have achieved, or not achieved, in their activity. It demands considerable courage just to step onto the public stage to demonstrate your facility or frailty. We saw the tears of triumph and failure and on occasion learnt also what those tears meant. Tears released from their inner soul in vindication of years of unrelenting effort and self-belief that have finally been repaid. And tears for those who had supported that belief. For me, the human story behind the flat screen recording of achievement brought the Games into glorious 3D. It brought a deeper appreciation of what commitment can achieve. I would like to think we can transport that commitment to the wider problems of the world.
SO many stories could be mentioned. Of course my focus singles out the British stories because those are the ones I can relate to. You will have your own memory cache. But the challenges of just getting to Japan for competitors from poorer nations deserved Gold Medal status for that achievement alone. Rarely did we get the chance to hear “What’s my story?” from them. In short, the real fascination lies not in the achievement but in the story behind that achievement
In my last blog – Who are you? How do you identify yourself ? – I talked about my sister and her struggle to redefine herself as a three dimensional person. From a young age her identity had always been “Julia the runner”. It takes a big effort to let go of the safety of a convenient lifebelt and swim independently to a wider shore. It was interesting to hear that athletes who define themselves in a wider context than their specific activity, often achieve better. Tom Daly expanded on how he now defines himself in a much wider context than diving makes interesting listening.
These reflections on clichéd categorisation bring me the principal purpose of the blog. We attach snap judgements in all areas of life; quick to judge without the background to make a proper assessment. In her early morning barefoot runs around London, Julia observed the homeless waking from their sleeping bags in shop doorways. From observation she went to engagement and discussion and learned how they had arrived there: their stories. She learned that there is no simple answer to why someone is in that situation. Re-engagement with a productive and purposeful life is very difficult from there, but with help of organisations such as Crisis it is possible.
Julia has gone beyond the clichéd judgements to hear “What’s my story? ”; and it inspired her. It’s the reason that she now plans her Barefoot JOGLE to raise money for Crisis and their campaign to end homelessness. The richness of life comes from reaching out to understand the real stories. Some of them are amazing.
Visit BarefootacrossBorders.com to learn of her plans and join the fight to end homelessness. Together we can.