I remember as a child when my mother told me to clean out my toy box, I was not happy. It was a chore, a “no-fun” task. I dreaded it. But once I got started I always found things I had forgotten about, things that I later played with for hours. Looking back, cleaning out my toy box was one of the things that always paid off.
One of the things that always pays off for me now is my involvement with community organizations. Most of my community time now is spent with Special Olympics. The personal rewards for me are many and meaningful and I call on them almost daily.
But like my toy box, Special Olympics often surprises me with business pay offs too. I frequently find some type of inspiration that leads to a positive outcome in my business life. The latest inspiration that I found in my Special Olympics toy box came from the founder of Special Olympics, an incredible woman named Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Many of you might recognize her as the sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy. Both Mrs. Shriver and Senator Kennedy passed away in August 2009.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was one of the most visionary people of our times, especially when it comes to people and our society. Want a little inspiration from her? She founded Special Olympics 40 years ago. What did she do? She provided a safe place for those with intellectual disabilities to fit in, to make lasting friendships, to compete and improve their physical fitness. All of those things are very important and a tremendous task in and of themselves. But those are simply things that describe how she did what she set out to do. Those are how she changed the world forever.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver catalyzed a movement that has lasted 40 years and is still going strong. The movement includes Special Olympics athletes, their parents, their relatives, their friends, thousands of volunteers in every state and nearly every country and small, unbelievably dedicated staffs that make the organization run.
The movement has brought intellectually disabled people into the mainstream of our society. It has forever changed how the world views and treats those with intellectual disabilities. But here is the real kicker…it has changed each and every one of us that has been touched by the Special Olympics athlete that works in our office, bags groceries at our local grocery store, works at the home improvement store where we shop. The insights and inspiration we get from this dedicated, valuable and loyal part of our business world are priceless.
Mrs. Shriver set out to change our society. She gave a 40-year gold medal performance. All of the benefits that athletes derive in their daily participation in training and competition are really parts of the “how” she succeeded in changing our world. And this is terrific inspiration for those of us thinking about the value proposition that we bring to our customers. What are we ultimately trying to accomplish on their behalf? How can we bring profound change to their world in a way that makes them more successful?
Keep your eyes open. Inspiration is all around us.