THE GAMES have begun. I am really not much of a sports person. I do like basketball, soccer, swimming and yes, golf. I can follow the action without having to ask what’s happening.
But there is something about the Olympics that is irresistible.
I love to see the burning passion in the eyes of each athlete, whatever the sport, who strives for excellence and fights against all odds to bring honor to his or her country. Each one aspires for the gold and for that brief moment on the podium when the national anthem is played. It evokes tears every time.
We watched the opening ceremonies after a delightful dinner of baked flounder, spaghetti and meatballs, and caprese salad made with heirloom tomatoes. We feasted on a ton of appetizers: sliced grilled pulpo vinaigrette, sourdough morsels dipped in warm spicy tomato and cheese sauce, and a delicious smoked trout spread on crispy crackers.
Dessert was served in the family room downstairs where we settled in front of a huge TV screen to watch the spectacular opening ceremonies while munching on chocolate-covered strawberries. It was the next best thing to being there.
When the torch with the Olympic flame was carried into the stadium, we couldn’t help but remember that emotional moment when, in the 1996 Summer Olympics held here in Atlanta, Muhammad Ali, an Olympic legend himself, boxing champion and easily the most memorable sports figure of all time, stood proud and tall despite Parkinson’s disease, to light the Olympic Cauldron. Unforgettable.
Listen to the kids
Got e-mail from a friend in Manila. She told me about “apo day” last week.
It was raining and she was house-bound with her three grandchildren. It was a choice between bringing out gadgets or conversation. She decided to chat.
They talked about school and their friends. She asked them what they want to be when they grow up, and then took it a step further and asked what they would do if they ever became president.
One grandson, 8, was not too enthused.
“I don’t want to be president. It’s too much trouble. Everyone gets mad at you for anything you do. So what if you live in a palace! Even if you are a good president, they still talk bad about you. I think it’s better to be a lawyer like my dad. Lawyers make lots of money and they’re always right, even when they’re wrong.”
My friend made a mental note to tell her son-in-law.
The twin brother agreed. “Yeah, me too. Or maybe I will be an Olympic swimmer like Michael Phelps. It’s exciting. If you win, they give you a gold medal. If you don’t, they still shake your hand and say nice things about you. A president does not get any medals no matter how good he is.
“But maybe I will also like being the president because then I can do as I please, go where I want to go, in my own plane, or ride in a huge car with sirens screaming and motorcycle escorts. A president is on TV a lot, like a star! Everyone around you is so polite and they treat you like you are something special, like you were God.”
Their little sister, only 5, chimed in: “I can become president too if I wanted to. Girls can, you know. No one will ever tell me what to do. I will like that. Maybe I can even change the world.”
There was raucous laughter from her brothers. She continued, annoyed.
“Go ahead and laugh. When I’m president, I will boss you two boys around. I will like that best of all.”
“And if you get silly and stupid with me, like you are right now, I will call my soldiers to get you and put you on ‘time out’—forever!”
My friend and I worry. Is this the age of too much information? Do kids really have to know everything? Who are they listening to? What do they see?
Watch your words
Recently at a friend’s family dinner, the adults got into a heated discussion about the US presidential elections in November. Emotions ran high and tempers flared. I understand one lady left the table in tears.
Their teenage kids sat quietly. I wonder what they thought of all the bickering. Were they amused? Maybe.
But I am seriously thinking about what their attitude will be if the candidate who was pilloried and vilified that night wins the presidency. Will it be cool if they disrespect or thumb their nose at the winner? Hearing all the vicious invectives from the grown-ups that night may leave them no choice. Scary thought.
So what do we do? They do say that forewarned is forearmed. But, even the children?
If I tell my great grandchildren stories about my romantic walks in the park under a full moon, will they miss the romance and imagine instead hoodlums and crazies that lurk in the dark? Pity.
We teach the children to be friendly, but also tell them that talking to strangers is dangerous and that picking up someone in need might be a mistake.
We stop them from reaching out to a child begging in the street because it might be a ruse, or a racket and against the law. And they learn to look away.
Now tell me, how can we, with a straight face, talk to them about kindness?