Competition: “Striving together” for Good

…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. – Isaiah 40: 31

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Did you know that the word “competition” actually comes from the Latin word, “competere” – which means to “strive together”? Instead of looking at a competition as a battle between individuals, we might see in competition individuals who are all striving together towards a common goal – who share the same aspiration. I think that’s kind of cool.

You’ve probably heard the story of Luz Long and Jesse Owens and their competition in the long jump at the 1936 Olympics. I think Jesse and Luz give us a wonderful example of what a competition between two world-class athletes should look like…

Luz was competing in the Olympics for the German team, Jesse was competing for the American team. Jesse, an African-American, had embarrassed Hitler when he’d won the 100 meter race, beating out members of Hitler’s “master race” to win the gold medal.  The next day he was close to getting disqualified in the long jump competition, after fouling on his first two jumps. This is when Luz Long introduced himself to Jesse, and suggested Jesse make his third (and final) attempt two inches before the takeoff board. Owens followed Long’s advice and qualified for the competition. By the end of the day, the competition had come down to a match between Jesse and Luz. On his last jump, Jesse won the gold medal. In spite of Hitler’s disapproval, Luz was the first to congratulate Jesse. Of Long, Owens said, “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace. The sad part of the story is I never saw Long again. He was killed in World War II.” (http://www.sportsfeelgoodstories.com/2009/04/14/jesse-owens-and-luz-long-%E2%80%94-olympic-heroes-1936/)

Long and Owens are still remembered and honored some 70 years later – not because they were the two “best” long jumpers in 1936 – but because of the class, humanity, and nobility they both expressed that day.

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As I watch the 2012 Olympics, I see a lot of world-class good being expressed – and the good I see being expressed isn’t just limited to the athletes who “win.” In fact, it isn’t limited to the athletes at all. I see love and joy being expressed by the people who cheer the athletes on. I see generosity and self-sacrifice in the support the athletes’ loved ones give to them. I see intelligence and wisdom expressed by the people behind-the-scenes who organize and maintain the event. I see beauty and grace and coordination expressed everywhere at the Olympics – and it’s not just the athletes who are expressing those things.

The Olympics provide a wonderful opportunity to “competere” – to “strive together” to express fully the beauty, grace, strength, generosity, and kindness of Love, God.

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““Love giveth to the least spiritual idea might, immortality, and goodness, which shine through all as the blossom shines through the bud. All the varied expressions of God reflect health, holiness, immortality – infinite Life, Truth, and Love.” –

from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

“Take my feet, and let them be

Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing

Always, only, for my King.

Take my lips, and let them be

Filled with messages from Thee.”

— Christian Science Hymn, #324