La Lengua de Lazarus | Happy Birthday Jonathan

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Today would have been Jonathan Wentz's 22nd birthday. You may not know who Jonathan Wentz was. I was not afforded the opportunity until I spoke with him at the TEDxSMU event on September 21. I unfortunately would only hold that honor for a little over a week because on September 30th Jonathan tragically passed away. I would share with you his story but I believe he can tell it best. Here is his talk from the TEDxSMU Hilltop event:

Jonathan spoke about his struggles of going from not being sure he would ever be able to walk or stand to becoming a US Olympian who came just a few points shy of medaling. He was not ashamed of returning without a medal because although he came few point short of a medal he did not come short of his goals. His goal was to give his all for his family, his nation, and for inspiration to the world.

The day before the event I had the opportunity to talk with him. I asked him what he enjoyed most about the Olympic experience. I thought for sure it would be seeing his name at the top of the leader board, putting on the US uniform, meeting the president, flying across the world, or possibly the opening ceremonies. Those, however, were not the moments he turned to. The greatest moment, he told me, was stepping onto the grounds of the Olympic Village.

He had never experienced anything like it, he said. What made that moment so wonderful was looking around and seeing so many other people with disabilities. There were the Paralympic rugby teams, equestrian teams, track and field athletes, even blind soccer teams (yes, you read that right, look it up it is nothing short of amazing). Jonathan explained to me that he had never been with so many people with disabilities. He was not a minority but instead was a part of an elite team of athletes. Their abilities may have been different from the people who had resided in the Olympic Village just weeks before, but they were all athletes, they were all Olympians. As Jonathan mentions in his talk, he was part of an elite fraternity, "Once an Olympian, always an Olympian".

Reflecting on his experience at the Olympics I think about the importance of community. I have learned at the Bonhoeffer House and have shared many talks (including my talk at the same event Jonathan spoke at) about the importance of having a supportive, loving community. Jonathan experienced that kind of community while in London. The people in the Olympic Village were not there because of their  disabilities they were there because of their abilities their Olympic caliber abilities. This was not Jonathan's only experience of community, however. In his talk he mentions all the people who were with him through the ups and downs. This group includes his friends, teammates  sponsors, horses, and of course, his family. If you go to Jonathan's facebook page you will see that community. He was surrounded by prayerful, supportive people in life and continues to be surrounded by those people in death. Jonathan was not on the journey of life alone but walked with many people who joined him on the road.

I hope that we all learn from Jonathan's example. I hope we can learn from his personal motivation and determination that brought him to London as well as the wonderful community he was surrounded by that saw to it that he achieved his goal. I pray that community continues to surround his family as their community has shrunk by one. Thank you Jonathan for your example, and Happy Birthday.


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