Our culture (and yours too, probably) values and praises people who have even features and display athletic prowess. Every four years countries come together and compete for supremacy at the Olympics. And then.. for one day a year or so people who are amputees or have Down's Syndrome or are differently-abled in some way come together for the Special Olympics and for that day (or maybe a few days) everyone cheers them instead. Then they return to the usual beauty-standard/athletic-prowess thing for the rest of the year.
Today was the Special Olympics day for bicycle commuters, aka Bike To Work Day. I rode the same ten miles I always ride but there were people outside with little tables offering bicyclists muffins, cake, juice and coffee. Also a modest goody bag. People cheered and waved at me as I did the same thing I do every day. I think it's nice of them to stand out there and hand out muffins but it's a little embarrassing too, as if one day I were walking to my office and people started cheering "wow, look at her walk! hey, thanks for walking! looking good with that walk of yours!"
I'm not going to be so arrogant as to describe why a person competes in the Special Olympics. I do know that their situation is one that is with them year round, and this is the day they have the opportunity to compete and perhaps excel, the day they can earn recognition for how they live year round. As I was thinking this over I was bicycling up Charleston Street and I saw a group of my co-workers riding the company Conference Bicycle up the road. They looked crazy ridiculous and they were laughing and shouting and pedaling very hard (that thing is heavy) and the cars were slowing to check out this strange beast and hands extended out windows to snap cell phone photos.
That was when it came to me. One day a year we demonstrate that our restraints have set us free. We have no powerful engine, no airbags, no gasoline and no oil. We have no windshield wipers and no dashboard, no stereo system and no power windows. It's raining and the water falls on our shoulders and soaks into our socks and the people driving by see us and think we're crazy or pity us. What I don't have when I ride my bicycle has shown me what I do not need. What I do not have by choosing to ride a bicycle does not limit me. It has made me better.