Whether one loves or hates the Olympics, or tries to simply ignore the whole thing (good luck with that), what stands out is how much that whole fabulous enterprise is about story. The day-to-day professional sports that are part of modern living (just try to ignore them!) come with their share of story, but most of that story involves winning and losing and how much money is made and what factors will affect future winning and/or losing. With the Olympics it is still foremost about winning (hey, this is sports!) but we also get a whole lot more backstory, which usually tends to feature a triumph-over-adversity theme, adversity arriving in any number of ways, be it poverty or ugly politics or tragic family circumstances, or straying from the good and true and finding one’s way back again, Michael Phelps and his DUI being an extremely-reported example.
Whatever facilitates the triumph tends to be the part of the story woven with mostly common threads: hard work, talent, luck (never mentioned but ever present nonetheless), and the timely support of others: families, mentors, teachers, somebody providing money. It can get pretty inspiring, which is the whole point. At the Olympics, there is undeniably much inspiration to be found in every story of every athlete who simply qualifies for the games, and it is unfortunate we tend to only hear about those finishing in the medals, and only the American winners, at that. It is likely many of the untold stories might be the better ones, in terms of inspiration. Those working in Behavioral Health listen to stories all day long; it’s a big part of the job. Many of the stories we hear are easily as inspiring, some represent equal or even greater triumphs over adversity than those that come out of the Olympics. You won’t hear those stories on NBC anytime soon; the authors of those stories probably wouldn’t want that anyway. But it would be a more inspiring world if there were more of a democracy of stories, if more of us were aware that there are far more heroes in our midst than just the talented ones we see on TV.
John Dabrowski LICSW
Neponset Health Center
Geiger Gibson Community Health Center