Last week a story came out of the Olympic Games of a Canadian speed skater offering his place in the 1,000-meter event to a fellow teammate.
We all love it when our team wins. Or when one of our countrymen stands on the podium, receiving recognition for a performance of excellence. But isn’t it an offer such as this one, gracious giving by one athlete to another, that crosses international borders and adds a dimension that stirs all our hearts?
Making perhaps one of the greatest sacrifices an Olympic athlete can make, up-and-coming speed skater Gilmore Junio gave up his spot in the race to his friend Denny Morrison, who had fallen in the Olympic qualifiers and had not won a place in the competition. Junio felt his teammate was capable of a stronger performance. Morrison accepted this gracious gift, saying, “This is an amazing gesture and I’m ready to make the most of this opportunity. Olympic heroes are created off the ice as well as on it” (Huffington Post, Feb. 12)
Noble words put into action send out ripples of joy and admiration from audience and athletes alike. “Class act ... such an amazing gesture of sportsmanship... Proud of @cdnhappygilmore for his selfless act, giving ... most beautiful act of Olympic spirit...” were a few of the immediate, fast-flowing tweets of praise that Junio received.
And Morrison did make the most of his opportunity. Junio’s golden act brought Morrison and the Canadian team a silver medal.
Wonderful triumphs such as this can surpass even those that come from athletes striving together, nudging each other forward. These are the tales of teammates, or perhaps even opponents, recognizing an opportunity to treat another in the same manner as they themselves would like to be treated, and in that moment proving the breaking of limits here is a blessing to all humanity.
Christ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a collection of teachings and sayings – of lessons for life – and what has come to be known as the golden rule is among these messages. “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, New International Version) is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. The truths that underlie this rule of conduct have been felt through the centuries, and it has been translated into countless forms and languages. The concept appears prominently in many of the world’s major religions.
The gold of its message, both precious and rewarding, is described in the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible in terms of Olympic proportion: “Its truth, creatively and imaginatively applied in all human situations, moves men to a mutual good beyond all calculation.”
Mutual good, brotherhood, selfless action, spontaneous giving, could be described simply as expressions of love. Another one of Jesus’ teachings, to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39), intertwines beautifully with this message of treating others with the kindness we would like to receive.
The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote emphatically of the importance of living love. In an article titled “Love,” she affirmed: “I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 250).
Her robust language could be describing athletes sacrificing self for a greater good. And certainly an image of “true metal” from the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be that of the two speed skaters standing tall together, bearing “active witness” to a “noble sacrifice” and showing forth a “grand achievement” as a result.