Here I am, sobbing over my porridge this morning while I watch Esposito struggling to hold back her tears as she approaches the finish line of the modern pentathlon final. At one point she looks back at the opponents and realises she is taking home the gold medal and her intense facial expression now shows a mix of joy and disbelief. I had to reach out for another box of tissues. Call me emotional but whenever I watch athletes in the pursuit of the Olympic dream tears run down my cheeks. It’s impossible not to empathise with the stories of courage, determination, heroism and resilience that is behind each athlete. I think this ability to put ourselves in other people shoes is something that unities us all—I’m sure I’m not the only one moved to tears.
I wipe the final drop clinging to my cheek and turn on my laptop to check the news. Pass me the tissue box again. I come across videos of children being pulled from rubble in the recent bombing in Aleppo, Syria. Suddenly all the joy of the games in Rio seem like a selfish indulgence. In this particular video, a little boy endures the entire process of his rescue without dropping a single tear. Don’t worry little one, me and the world are crying for you. The boy’s in shock and so am I.
The world gives us plenty of reasons to cry and I’m here trying to console myself and pondering if we should celebrate the battle for medals when there are millions of people in the world battling for their dignity and in need of humanitarian support? Shouldn’t we solve the human suffering first before putting our energy on the celebration of the achievements of a lucky few?
There is no simple answer to that, the human suffering is too big of a problem. We help alleviate pockets of suffering here and another one pops up somewhere else. I guess we have to make a difference while we celebrate and encourage the amazing accomplishments of our fellow human beings. We need the collective strength of individual people (both the ordinary and the amazing), civil society and governments to make difference.
The Olympics remind us that it takes courage, self-sacrifice, determination and the support from a team to rise above our limits and achieve what is thought to be impossible. If we can emulate that outside the sport courts and track fields we can bring hope, solidarity and compassion to disasters and wars and create a more humane world.
So don’t be shy to shed a tear during the games, but not just as a reflexive reaction at the sight of the golden glory but as a reflection that each one of us can aspire to be better human beings and as a humanity raise the bar of our moral values. Let’s shed tears of joy and tears of sorrow, always hoping for a brighter day tomorrow.