As an international journalist, I covered the summer Olympics several times. My press colleagues and I witnessed many incredible achievements. We watched Carl Lewis emulate the 4-gold-medal feat of Jesse Owens, gasped at the perfect tens of gymnasts like Nadia Comaneci, and went stride for stride with Joan Benoit in the first women's marathon.
We also found ourselves obliged to report on shameful disqualifications for drug abuse, persistent political boycotts, and stringent security measures to protect the athletes and officials.
In 1988, with North Korea making ominous signs across the border, the South Koreans were desperately concerned about security in Seoul. Yet peace and goodwill poured through those Games like the sunlight across the Han River.
The National Servicemen who guarded our press village were disguised as bellhops. The young soldier I came to know best was the supervisor of our building. His name was Yunoh, and his erudition had entitled him to wear a red badge that announced proudly, "I speak English."
And speak it he did, with unselfconscious pedantry and the neatest American shading. What was remarkable was that he'd never traveled out of Korea, but had learned English at school and college by reading the Bible.
I worked all day, and Yunoh worked all night, but our paths crossed in the early hours of the morning, when we talked over mugs of tea.
"The happiest moments in my life are when I go to church with my family," he told me on one occasion. "I was born of goodly parents, and their example is the best advice I've ever been given. In my country respect for one's parents is very important. The Bible says it too: 'Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.'
"God is the Parent who gives us so much," continued Yunoh. "He is the One for whom we need to show the greatest respect. And I know that His rewards are sure."
I told him that I liked to think about the Father and Mother of us all as Love, as the source of all good. And that we reflect God in perpetual harmony.
"Yes," agreed Yunoh. "That is why, deep down, I do not fear for the future in my country. I know that God is stronger than all the forces of evil. He would win all the gold medals!"
Building on that, we discussed how praying every day develops an awareness that we are linked with God, and that this frees us from limitations and releases latent abilities. This, we agreed, could apply in the arena of politics or athletic competition.
Through a deep faith in God's power and love (which is without regard for race, nationality, or Olympic classification), our performance improves. We view opponents more considerately and get less concerned about being celebrities. We learn to manage defeat without bitterness or guilt. And we're less concerned with winning medals than with refining human character.
In the words of Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy : "It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 467). That passage tells me that understanding our link to God dissolves personality conflicts, win-at-all-costs attitudes, and even longstanding contention between nations.
When I left the press village one early morning two weeks later, the mountains across the Han River showed their granite teeth in the growing light. As I looked back across the wide expanse of rippling water, the sun spread its gold through the arches of a dozen bridges.
"That's for you, Yunoh," I thought.
He'd been so busy keeping us from harm that he hadn't seen anyone win a medal. But he, and many other young soldiers like him, had served unselfishly and well. For Yunoh, it had to be gold.
Articles like this one appear in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society