I’ve been watching as much of the Olympics on television as I can stay awake for because I am overwhelmed by the dedication and discipline of so many young people from all over the world. (The oldest competitors are considered “old” if they are over 35 years old, a birthday I have not seen in a very long time!) The television coverage is helpful, too, with brief segments that allow us to see these athletes as people of different backgrounds who have families and struggles and favorite things like ice cream…so that the sport that drives them does not consume them. I’m sure there are those who cannot bear to lose but one of the advantages of participating in a team is learning that old lesson that “it isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” All of this leads to the conclusion that working together in cooperation – even with a healthy spirit of competition – is possible and desirable among the nations of the world.
Every so often in the evening coverage there is a break that does not advertise any product but rather shows pictures of people. The text is read by a person whose voice sounded familiar and when I finally was sure it was Maya Angelou, speaking truth from beyond the grave, I looked up a line and, sure enough, it was her poem that she was reading, called Human Family. I will write it here as I hear it each evening rather than in the poetic form to illustrate what I have tried to indicate above – that is, the reality that needs so desperately to permeate the consciousness of the planet at the present time.
I note the obvious differences in the human family. Some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy. Some declare their lives are lived as true profundity, and others claim they really live the real reality. The variety of our skin tones can confuse, bemuse, delight, brown and pink and beige and purple, tan and blue and white. I’ve sailed upon the seven seas and stopped in every land. I’ve seen the wonders of the world not yet one common man. I know ten thousand women called Jane and Mary Jane, but I’ve not seen any two who really were the same. Mirror twins are different although their features jibe, and lovers think quite different thoughts while lying side by side. We love and lose in China, we weep on England’s moors, and laugh and moan in Guinea, and thrive on Spanish shores. We seek success in Finland, are born and die in Maine. In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same. I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.
May our prayer always take the form of a striving to understand this truth: that we are more alike than unalike.