Success in the face of huge challenges in life

I wonder how much of the Paralympic Games you managed to watch. You will have seen the headlines about Dame Sarah Storey who has won the most medals by a British athlete, an amazing total of twenty-eight medals including seventeen gold medals. I am always in awe of the achievements that are made in the face of severe disabilities. I was interested in the comments on how participating in sport has many benefits. The obvious one being, growing in physical strength but less obvious are the benefits for mental health and socialising with other people. We are all only too aware of the real damage that isolation can have on all of us as we all have some experience of this in the national lockdowns. One of the things that you cannot help but notice while watching the Paralympics, is the number of people who compete who have been injured as a result of war. Part of the paralympic movement sprung out of the need to help injured war veterans with their rehabilitation. One of the pioneering places was Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Stoke Mandeville Games 1948. All the athletes provide great role models for other people to try and to participate whatever their circumstances might be. It is the taking part that really makes a difference.

The month of November is a time when as a nation we remember. It has been particularly hard with lockdowns to have the normal Remembrance of the 11th November and Remembrance Sunday this year on the 14th of November. It is right that the people that have died in conflicts are remembered. Equally important are the people who survive and are often physically and emotionally scarred by military conflict. This has been brought into sharp focus with the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and that twenty-year war. Part of the Annual Remembrance is the Poppy Appeal and raising money for Help for Hero’s and military welfare charities. This fundraising does make a huge difference in the ongoing support of veterans and their families.

It comes as no surprise that the bible tells stories about the people who society has wrongly dismissed as not important, coming good.  In fact, in Jesus’ life, he goes out looking for those marginalised by society and offers practical help.  The sad truth is that prejudice is often responsible for people being marginalised.  It is the majority who have to change how they think about other people. The Paralympics rightly challenges us to view people for the talent and potential they already have, but also to look for it in others and to encourage them to develop unique gifts whatever their life situation might be.