March 02, 2010 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"Our Thoughts and Cheers Are With You"By now everyone knows the story of Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette.† At age 24, the six-time Canadian national champion was a favorite going into the Vancouver Olympics to win a medal for her country.† Two days before the short program, and four days before the finals in the long program, Joannie's mother died of a heart attack while at the Olympic games to watch her daughter perform.
Everyone would have understood if Joannie had chosen not to compete after her mother's death, but that was apparently never an option which she considered.† She said she knew her mother would want her to skate.†† And so skate she did.† She went on to skate so well that she earned the bronze medal in the midst of a very competitive field. †
As I watched her skate her long program, I thought there has probably never been a skater who had more support from the crowd as she skated for an Olympic medal.††† Given that it was a home crowd for her already, and then adding the incredible sadness of her loss, everyone in the stands was pulling for her.† All of us who watched on television were doing just the same.† And of course she knew she had a special angel cheering for her that night in her mother, who she looked up to and acknowledged the moment she finished. †
Right after Joannie's mother died I heard several interviews with other athletes and friends that were close to her and her family.† Each of them said, in their own way, "our thoughts and prayers are with Joannie."† I remembered those words as I watched her skate and saw how passionately the crowd cheered for her.† And then it hit me, prayers are a lot like cheers.† They are not one and the same, but there are some powerful similarities. †
When we tell someone that we are praying for them in many ways it's similar to telling them that we are cheering for them, rooting them on as they face whatever they are facing.† Imagine for a moment if Joannie had skated her final program in front of an empty arena.† Imagine there was not one fan there to cheer her on.† Perhaps she would have skated well, but I'm pretty sure there is no way she would have performed as well as she did.† The cheers and support of the crowd made a huge difference.†† Even though this difference is not material or physical,† and cannot be scientifically measured, I think we all believe in the power of a cheering crowd and the positive influence it can have on the outcome of a performer's efforts.† I can't imagine that any world record has ever been set in an empty stadium or arena. †
Prayer is like that, too.† It is not a material or physical force that can be scientifically measured, but I for one, know of it's power to make a difference in one's life.† When I was recovering from an accident several years ago, I knew that hundreds of people were praying for me and that made a huge difference in my recovery.† Knowing that I had hundreds of people cheering for me everyday helped me to perform at my fullest ability.† No one should have to go through a hard time alone.† We all need as many people cheering for us as possible.
Now that the Olympics are over, Joannie Rochette and her father will begin their long journey of grief, away from the world spotlight.† May they know that our thoughts and cheers continue to be with them.
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