On August 10th of this past summer, I joined eighty thousand other fans from around the world to cheer for Oscar Pistorius as he ran the final leg of the 4x400m final at the London Olympics. Yes, I was at the Olympics in London England!
Earlier this spring, my ten year old son Isaiah was nominated by his hockey coach for an award through McDonald's for leadership, sportsmanship, fitness level, and community involvement. According to the essay submitted by his coach, he was a stand-out on his hockey team. We included in Isaiah's "community involvement" component his participation in Sanctuary London — where he joins us regularly, and even brought his whole hockey team to a drop-in meal last winter. The prize — a trip for two to the London Olympics. And Isaiah won! We flew out for an amazing four day experience in London, England. We saw Sherlock Holmes' house at 221B Baker St, the London Eye, Parliament buildings and Big Ben, as well as two Olympic events – bronze medal match for women's court volleyball (Japan won in 3 sets over South Korea) and the second last night of track and field at Olympic Park (saw the 4x100m women's final won by the American women in world record time, pole vault, hammer throw, 4x100m men's qualifying, and a few other races). It was an experience like no other.
That one moment struck me. Oscar Pistorius — his lower legs amputated at age 11 months and since then has been walking and running on artificial legs — ran right past us. By the time he received the baton as anchor, his team from South Africa was far behind the eventual leaders from Bahamas. But he ran with perseverance and determination. And we cheered. Eighty thousand of us cheered. We did not cheer out of sympathy. We cheered (at least I did) because Oscar had not let any one or any thing get in the way of his dreams. His struggles to compete in the "able-bodied" Olympics has been well documented. Too many people thought his artificial legs may give him an advantage. In the end, he qualified for the men's 400m semi-final and his team ran in the 4x400m final. And we cheered. What gave him the strength to keep going beyond all odds? What gave him the courage to compete not just in track but in the courts? I'm convinced that comes from one place — hope. Hope comes from love, and love comes from HOME.
Home is that place of connection and acceptance. Home is the place where you are allowed to mess up and still feel loved. In other words, home is where you cheer for each other. Home is missing for so many people I know in downtown London. They are "homeless."
I sat with Carl on a bench in the morning sunshine just outside of the Covent Garden Market. He recalled his past — his family that moved around many times because of dad's job. "I never really settled down." He shared how he hit the streets at 15, made his way to Toronto and been "pretty much every where" since. He ended up in London because he met someone online and came here for the promise of a relationship. That promise like so many things in Carl's life faded. "What's the plan?" I asked him. The words hung there. The wind picked up — with just a taste of the autumn cool. "The plan? – this is the plan…I do this" motioning to the bench, "…that's it." No home. No love. No hope. And I wonder how it would be different to just have a few of the eighty thousand cheering for Carl.