Olympics Withdrawal

I’m suffering from Olympics Withdrawal. For those two precious weeks, my family sat around the TV like it was the 1950’s. We marveled at the swimmers and the gymnasts. We asked lots of questions, like is trampoline jumping really a sport (answer: yes) and where is the nation of Grenada (answer: the Caribbean) and what is “dressage” anyway (answer: horse dancing, I think)?

I teared up during medal ceremonies and full-out cried when they showed the back stories of some of the athletes who beat the odds just to make it to the games. The addition of the Refugee Team was a heartbreaking reminder of how so much of the world suffers in order to survive and find a home. For instance, Yusra Mardini, the Syrian athlete who, along with her sister, swam/pushed a boat for 3 hours towards land saving the 18 people onboard who were escaping from Syria. She showed strength enough to win a hundred gold medals in my book.


There were extraordinary moments of kindness during the games, too. When U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin collided during the women’s 5000m race, they stopped and helped each other to the finish line. Selflessness replaced competitiveness. The drive to help won over the drive to win.

Now that the medals have been awarded and all the athletes have gone home, I’ll look to other athletes (like my kids’ teams) to find more examples of good sportsmanship:

One of my favorite things about school swim meets is watching swimmers from competing teams cheer each other on. I love the notion that the swimmers who have finished should stay in their lanes, remaining in the water until everyone is done. Such a simple yet profound act of courtesy. And even if the last swimmer has been lapped by his opponents three times over, when he finally reaches the wall the swimmers and the crowd cheer as if he had won.

There is so much to learn from team sports and soccer is a favorite in my family. One phrase that pops up a lot, especially with younger soccer players is: “Same team!” When players stop talking to each other on the field—letting each other know they’re available or in need of assistance—and start thinking only in terms of themselves they forget to act like a team. Then everything falls apart. They inadvertently take the ball from a teammate or attempt a shot even if they could pass the ball to someone in a better position for scoring. That’s when you start to hear the parents and coaches remind the players, “Same team!”

Even though the Olympics creates a country versus country situation, I like that it also gives us a “Same team!” vibe. People from all over the globe who might not share a lot of common experiences find a place to compete. We find that though we may be different, in the end—as when the athletes file into the closing ceremonies, waving and smiling and joining the large throng of people—we’re all on the same team.


When I was a little girl, my family would make the trip from our home in Nashville to our grandparents’ house in Danville, Illinois, several times a year. My grandmother was older when she had my mom (nearly 40…so old!) so by the time she became our grandmother she was practically ancient. It was a mercy she didn’t use “thee” and “thou” in her regular, everyday speaking. There were times when we just didn’t understand each other.

For instance, every time I left the bathroom, my grandmother would be waiting for me just outside the bathroom door to ask me the same question: “Did your bowels move, honey?” This was not a phrase we used in our house. I had no idea what my bowels were and why they might be moving, but seeing as I was a middle child with a pathological need to please people, I interpreted from her tone that bowel movement was a good thing so I always said yes. I can’t imagine what she thought about my obviously overworking digestive system.

If we had found a word we both understood for the process in question, I could’ve given her the real answer and her data (I can only assume she was creating a Granddaughter B.M. chart) would’ve been more accurate.

In most situations where there is conflict, the majority of the issues could be resolved if only those in conflict could find common ground and understanding from the perspective of others. There are few things in the world that can impart peace to a troubled heart better than someone who can empathize with your sorrow.

Recently we were blessed by the presence of three families in our home. These families had one very important thing in common with us. Each of us had waited years to bring home an adopted son from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We connected mostly through Facebook and found that we all lived within 1.5 hours of each other.

The boys and their siblings played at our house that evening while the parents compared notes. “How often did your son wake up during the night when he first came home? What foods does your son like the best? What non-English words does your son still use on a daily basis?” and on and on. We laughed and hugged. My husband said a prayer of thanksgiving for what had at times seemed impossible. The level of loving, non-judgmental understanding was remarkable.

These families just happen to be made up of people who most anyone could get along with. These aren’t difficult people who cultivate conflict, so our evening would’ve been fine even if we had been introduced in another way—through church or school. We could’ve become friends even if we didn’t have Congolese sons.

But there are times when it’s challenging to find harmony with those around us. We vote differently, worship differently, parent differently, literally speak different languages. Despite these differences, and with hard work and a little imagination, I believe we can find a place where we can work towards peace and understanding with most people. We can find a common interest, passion, or experience. Because sometimes that’s where everything can change.

If you can meet someone—toe to toe—where they are, and you can see the world from where they stand, you can begin to say, “Now I see why you feel this way!” You don’t have to agree with them, but it’s harder to hate someone close up and personal, and if there was ever a time to stop hating people, it’s now. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”


Two dwarf Rose of Sharon bushes stand guard on either side of our front porch. Over the past seven years, they have grown at a slant, leaning towards each other as if they’re trying to hold hands like a stooped elderly couple. Once summer gets really good and hot, they put out beautiful, white blossoms with petals as soft as chiffon. It only takes a moment of listening to the buzzing to know I’m not the only one who loves these flowers.

The bees can’t get enough of them. Big, fat bumblebees and smaller, quick honeybees dart in and out of the blossoms all day long. Recently, their busy movements prompted me to sit on the front porch and watch them work. I attempted to see how they harvest nectar and gather pollen but their work was too miniature for my eyes. So I did the next best thing, I googled “honey bees.”

That’s where I learned what these vast armies of tiny insects are capable of. It takes 8-12 worker bees working their whole lives just to make one teaspoon of honey. One-eighth teaspoon of honey (the life’s work for an industrious lady bee) is easily what is left in the curved crevices of the plastic, bear-shaped squeeze bottle before I throw it away.

There are three jobs available for employable honey bees. They can be a queen (a difficult job—she lays around 200,000 eggs every year), a worker (those are the female bees we see flying around), and the drones (the male bees who mostly remain in the hive…where they belong—barefoot and impregnating). Within these three career tracts, there are various sub-specialties. For instance, some chew the honey when it arrives to make it thicker, while others construct the series of waxy containers that make up the honeycomb.

However you look at it, a beehive is a remarkable, natural illustration of teamwork at its best. Every bee has a job and gets the work done. Their most important motivation is the health of the community, and the only way to keep the hive buzzing is for everyone to work together.

I love being a part of a team. I like to collaborate to make a pretty good idea amazing. I like to see what happens when you put a bunch of different people with a variety of skills and experiences together and let them loose. There’s a palpable excitement in the room when a theoretical project starts to materialize into something real.

Whether you’re the boss or a lowly drone, we could all learn a lot from the bees.


In my family of origin, we were Do-It-Yourself-ers before D.I.Y. was cool. Long before HGTV inspired envy and Pinterest boards overwhelmed us with promises of what could be, my tribe was made up of people who promoted in-home haircuts and changing their own motor oil. We were aghast at the thought of paying someone else to do something we could easily do ourselves, like decorating a birthday cake or painting our toenails or ripping off the roof and building an additional story on to our house (never mind the fact that the builders were mostly made up of college professors, salesmen, and a geologist).

While I still enjoy making things from scratch, I can also see the beauty in not doing everything myself, even if it goes against my nature to allow it.

Adding a child to your home is a perfect example of a time when you must admit that you need help. Though my initial reaction might be to turn away offers of meals and help with the older siblings, DIY parenting is a big mistake.

Pretending you don’t need the help of others and going on as usual will result in a 24/7 eye twitch—and that’s the best case scenario. Who are we kidding? When friends offer help, especially the “no-strings-attached, exactly-what-you-need” kind of help it should be a no-brainer.

But this isn’t just about the receiver of the help. It’s also about the ones who get to give it. When we deny others the chance to bless us with help and casseroles, we are preventing them from experiencing the joys of servanthood. We are stopping them from doing what they were made to do—acting like Christ, the ultimate servant.

Besides the satisfaction of helping others, the giver also gets to be a part of something outside of himself. When we help people in times of sorrow, we share in their mourning and bring a bit of it inside ourselves so we can practice empathy. When we help people in times of joy, we get to rejoice, too, as we walk back to our car thinking of the meal we just dropped off and the newborn baby we just held. (Ah, that new baby smell!)

If there is one thing I’ve learned about including others in our dreams and failures, it’s that the story is so much sweeter with a larger cast of characters. When we allow people to walk the journey with us, it makes the journey better, bearable.

There may be a one letter difference between “me” and “we” but that one letter can make a life-changing difference. Sometimes it’s just better to Do It Together.