My Thoughts on Community at the Special Olympics World Summer Games

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At our Special Olympics Board Meeting this morning, we continued exploring the idea of a Dignity Revolution that is focused on uniting and inspiring people in communities all around the world to move us in a more open, inclusive and tolerant direction.

A related question that got me thinking was posed at the Board Meeting: What community are you a part of?

I answered that St. Monica, my local church, is a community to which I belong. It’s the place where I feel welcome and at home. I also belong here in Athens for the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Even though I’m far from home, I know I’m exactly where I should be — amongst this community of people who are working to build a more accepting and just world. The millions of members of this community are among the most joyful, open, kind, welcoming and tolerant people I’ve ever met. It’s a community where everyone aims for their personal bests so that they can inspire their peers to do the same. This is my kind of community.

I found it interesting that when a small gathering of us later met with His All Holiness, Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, he spoke eloquently about the blessings that come from being a part of a community. He also remarked about the power of community to promote the “sacredness, uniqueness and dignity of all people.” He said we are all independent and unique individuals but that, because we belong to a community, we are also “dependent on God and each other.” In a strong community, His All Holiness noted, we will “carry burdens” for each other, “help and support” each other to “resolve our common problems” and provide opportunities for people to experience “dignity and equality despite their limitations.”

His definition of community reminded all of us gathered in that room of the global community that has been created through Special Olympics. We were all so moved by his words, and it really was the perfect message to leave with us as we prepare to open these games tonight.

Now it’s your turn: Where do you belong? What community are you a part of? What does community mean to you?

You can become a part of the Special Olympics community by joining the Dignity Revolution on Facebook, Twitter and Special Olympics website.

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About the Author

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Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Since 2009, Shriver has produced a groundbreaking series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation's premier forum for women, The Women's Conference. Shriver's work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change -- people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution.

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