A special book

Uplifting memoir tells of Special Olympics’ founding and impact

My writing needs to become a lot more casual if I actually want to post anything on this blog while getting ready to move to a new house. There’s so much I want to write about that we’ve had the privilege of participating in these past few months, and in my mind, I find the time to craft beautiful essays about our experiences. In reality, that is not happening. So I will play catch up in the coming weeks and likely write a bit more loosely than usual.

Today, though, I want to tell you about a book I’m reading. Special Olympics has made a huge impact on our lives, and in looking for ways to write about that, I came upon a memoir called Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most by Timothy Shriver. Shriver, Special Olympics chairman, is the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics founder. I’m only on page 24, and already I’m in love with the book’s intellect and heart.

Shriver writes about his life with his family, his mother’s advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities, and his aunt Rosemary Kennedy, whose life with intellectual disabilities profoundly affected and inspired the family.

Of his aunt, he writes:

“In her own way, she may have had the most influence of any member of my family, because her message was by far the most radical: she was the only person I ever met who didn’t need to do anything to prove that she mattered. In the midst of an enormously competitive family system, Rosemary Kennedy lived a full life to the age of eighty-six without ever giving a speech, writing a book, holding a job, or garnering the praise of the mighty. Despite failing to meet any of the expectations that were imposed on the rest of us, she belonged. … Her presence changed everything.”

In the summer of 1962, in Shriver’s backyard, his mother started Camp Shriver, a place for children with intellectual disabilities to play games and have fun, a place with an array of activities that “made my backyard into a virtual amusement park,” Shriver writes. The camp was born after Eunice Shriver had already devoted years to inquiry and advocacy in the area of intellectual disability. Frustrated and angry by the suffering she saw, she acted.

“She was determined to prove to others a lesson Rosemary had proved to her years before, a lesson that remains shocking in its simplicity and shocking in its continuing persistent disregard: people with intellectual disabilities are human beings, deserving of love, opportunity, and acceptance just as they are.”

I’m so glad to have found this beautiful book, which was first published in 2014. I look forward to the further treasures I expect to unearth in its pages. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo by Zach Mimms