I am an extremely unlikely athlete. Even the title sort of takes me aback and makes me want to shake my head in disagreement. I can’t really put my finger on what keeps drawing me back to my yoga mat and the barbell and yes, even running. Part of it is the connection I experience to this body I live in and the One who created it but that’s not the whole.
In December, I had the good fortune to visit the latest addition to the Smithsonian Institute: The National Museum of African American History and Culture. This museum is extremely well done and packed with information and more sections than I can recall. I was surprised when my friend Ebony sent out a text message letting my group of friends know the gift shop was about to close and I hadn’t even made it to the top floor, which was largely devoted to music, because I had spent so much time in the sports exhibit. That’s right. Sports. Never played on a team in my life. Sports. Scoff at being called an athlete. Sports. Don’t really go to many professional or college games and cannot remember the last game I watched on television. Sports. What held me in a rooms individually devoted to baseball, basketball, football, tennis, boxing, track and field, and so on? Yes, there is a rich history in those sports and among the athletes but there was rich history throughout the entire building and anyone who knows me knows my love of music and the arts. I think a quote that was written on the entry way of my apparent favorite section explains why sports are so powerful:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination.” – Nelson Mandela
I think that’s why I keep coming back. I believe in the power of connection with one another and our bodies through unified movements. I believe this power can change the world. I had previously thought I was naive or preposterous or maybe just straight up crazy. That one quote over a walk way in our nation’s capital affirmed what my heart knew to be true. Sport unifies. Movement is therapy not just for our bodies but for our whole selves. Did you know the word yoga is where we get the English word yoke? Yoga literally mean to unite, to bring together. Did you know there is no “I” in team? Even individual sports such as shot put or 200m freestyle swim or weight lifting, the athletes work together on a team. Everyone improves by working together. The encouragement, inspiration, and challenge found working together sharpens skills and improves lives. Psalm 133:1 tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” AND John 17:20-26 is Jesus’ plea for us to be one. God’s plan and desire is for us to live as one in unity and “to spur one another on to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24) Sport helps us achieve all of these things.
Sport has the power to change the world. Sport unifies and connects in a way unlike anything else. Sport takes our focus off of ourselves as individuals and on the the group as a whole. Sport moves us all together, as one, forward to win the prize.