Blind and Low Vision Olympics
The Sai Baba Center of Elk Grove, California, had participated in the Northern California Blind and Low Vision Olympics since 2006. This annual event, organized by the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, was usually held in the fall at California State University, Sacramento. In 2009, the 26th anniversary of the event, about 50 youths participated. Over the years that our center has participated in these Olympics, most of the center members and Sai Spiritual Education (see explanation on right) students volunteered.
About the Olympics
The Blind and Low Vision Olympics was designed to provide an opportunity for youth from newborn to age 18 to highlight their athletic abilities. It builds positive attitudes about vision loss and encourages independence. It helps build confidence in the participants and their abilities.
The events include 50- and 100-yard dashes, discus throwing, shot put, javelin throwing, and the broad jump. These events have been modified to accommodate the low vision and blindness of the participants. The participants are divided into groups in their age range, and each group rotates to each event so that all participants have an opportunity to take part in all the events. After a group completes an event, the top three finishers are awarded medals. At the end of the Olympics, all participants are given a participant medal.
As volunteers, our duties included guiding the participants by filling out their result scores, measuring distances, and awarding medals. After the events, we helped break down booths, loaded the vehicles, and cleaned the area.
We had full faith that we were divinely helped to find this wonderful and inspiring opportunity, for which we were very grateful.
An opportunity to be of some service to your fellowmen comes to you as a gift from God.
Sathya Sai Baba, 7 Jan 1971 (http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume11/sss11-05.pdf)
Participating in this event was indeed very inspiring and beneficial to all our Sai Center members. Although we were there to assist the blind and low vision youth in gaining self-confidence and reliance, it was we who learned important life lessons.
One of the lessons we learned was sportsmanship. All the participants showed enthusiasm and spirit. They did not take part solely for the purpose of winning. We were inspired by the positive attitudes exhibited by the participants in how they cheered and rooted for each other. They took great joy in encouraging and motivating each other. They also showed courtesy and respect toward their teammates and group leaders.
Observing this inspired me personally to become a better teammate at my job and not to view others in my team as my competitors. Instead of focusing primarily on my personal advancement within the company, I have taken up a role of being a mentor to others. This has led my team to become a strong contributor, and all of us have been recognized as important players in the future growth of the company. I feel like I am following Sai Baba’s teachings to eschew selfishness and self-interest and to resolve to serve the society.
Also, we all had the opportunity to improve our communication skills, starting with being instructed how to communicate with blind people. We were encouraged to treat all the athletes as if they did not have visual impairments. We learned to give them specific directions instead of holding their hands and guiding them to places. This has helped me communicate better with others. Too many times I would speak about frivolous things with others. This experience has helped me learn to be concise and to the point when talking to others, because we had to be that way when giving directions to the Olympics participants. Now I try my best to practice Sai Baba’s teachings about thinking before we speak – examining every urge to speak by asking: Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone?
This event also gave the Sai Center members an opportunity to take part in a fun, outdoor service activity. The center members made lasting friendships with the athletes and their families. It was quite wonderful to see these youth come back year after year and to watch them improve in many of the events. We felt that they must also be improving their skills in daily life.
Working with these participants made us realize and appreciate the value of all five senses. We tend to take these for granted and fail to recognize their importance. We realized that since God has blessed us with the gift of full vision, we should utilize this gift for doing good. We should see good things that will lead to good thoughts, words, and deeds.
We prayed that we would continue to be divinely guided as we participated in this event year after year, so we could share our love with the blind and low vision youth, and for continued help in our spiritual growth.
- Sathya Sai Baba Center of Elk Grove, CA
Consider selfless service as the best spiritual discipline... But do not believe that you can by means of service reform or reshape the world. You may or may not. That does not matter. The real value, its most visible result, is that it reforms, reshapes you.
Sathya Sai Baba, 21 Mar 1967