I watched Simone Manuel finish first in the 100 meter freestyle in Olympic record time then turn to look at the score board and put her hand over her mouth in utter surprise and delight. That girl just performed a miracle as far as she’s concerned, and in her after-swim interview, the first words out of her mouth were…
“All I can say is all glory to God.”
She went on, “It’s definitely been a long journey these last four years,” and as her voice began to break, “I’m just so blessed to have a gold medal.”
What a moment for this young woman! The first African-American to win an individual medal in USA Olympic swimming competition. She knows the weight of her position and the responsibility it holds. She has a voice on the highest platform, to address all those children of color who may now aspire to do what they wouldn’t otherwise have considered possible. All Glory to God, indeed.
So I’m surprised when I watch clips of her interview, shared on tv, online and on social media, that they begin with …”This is significant. You are the first African-American woman to medal … what does this mean to you, Simone?”
“This medal is not just for me…”
And the reporters are off with the story of the woman who inspires, the symbol of a movement, the focal point of a message. All to the good, but why do we skip to the “good” part? Why do we edit God out?
I know journalists do this. We edit for time and space and message. We cut out the fluff so we can focus on the nuggets. But in this young woman’s case, I think we may have missed the first point she was making. God made me as I am, and I’m good, thanks to Him.
Can we please start at the beginning, where she began? where we all began? which is why what she says and does matters and why what we say and do matters?
Thank you, Simone, for your heart for God and your courage to say so.
All glory to God.
Why is it that when I look at nature – in its perfect synchrony, perfect rhythm, perfect spacing, incomprehensible power, miraculous gentility – I am startled into silence and awe and moved to tears?
Captain Dave Anderson and his wife, obviously at great personal risk, witnessed and photographed these astounding moments. I know you will enjoy this.
I watched the megapod of dolphins – a stampede they called it. Each in his space and his rhythm, undulating and diving, extending, pulling and gliding. None looking to see where the other is, who is ahead, who is behind, just a whisper and a whoosh. And I am back in the water, feeling the two-footed downward thrust called the “dolphin kick” that energizes and propels the body up over the waves. Arms flung wide to grab and pull. How awkward compared to these gorgeous, sleek animals, so powerful and streamlined and perfectly suited for this. Still, I feel it, in my muscles and bones because in the small-ness of me, I have swum just that way. I am in rhythm with them, one of the stampede, tearing out to sea. Free.
And then the whales, like torpedoes, jet across the surface. Great tails flip casual propulsion. Oh, but then this tender moment of three humpback whales: mom, calf and escort. The newborn whale being hefted to the surface to breathe and to play there, perhaps for the first time. Such huge, ungainly creatures, hovering, treading water as it were, Mom lifts and balances the baby at the surface. No hands or arms to hold with, no voice to give instructions, no role modeling to demonstrate. Simply holding him up, trusting him to do what nature designed him to do. To blow out through the spout, to discover his buoyancy and calibrate his ballast.
He is awkward and tentative at first, but his capability emerges and with it his playfulness. How like all children this is. He stays and plays, rolls and swims, trying out his new freedom with his new skills. And mother plays along. Mother and child, no script, no demands.
I wonder briefly about this mother whale. Is she anxious her calf won’t learn to swim, won’t take a breath, won’t coordinate the tail flip, the body roll, the leap and dive? No. She simply waits and supports.
Perhaps human kind is the only kind who is anxious about its young. Who swims out from under to show them. Who comes out of silence to tell them. Who does for them rather than waiting for them to do for themselves.
Nature is patient and kind. Not boastful or arrogant or rude. Not self-serving. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Now I know why I am startled into silence and awe and moved to tears. Perfect love is there. It swam right up to the whale-watching boat. We know it in our muscles and bones and to our very core. Even the small-ness of me recognizes the rhythm of true love. Its nature is to be known and to draw out our response.
Silence. Awe. Tears. Wonder. Trust.