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I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with U.S.A. Judo paralympian, Myles Porter. He is a visually impaired olympian athlete who will represent the U.S. during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. This week he visited the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind to lend his support to U.S.A. Judo’s grassroot efforts to develop community programs which offer judo to the visually impaired.

I sat in a small cafeteria where a makeshift dojo, or training area, had been set up. Children with varying degrees of visual impairment were gathered, dressed in gis. Girls and boys, aged 6 to 11, fidgeted with anticipation for Myles to show up.

When Myles arrived, he described how people have often treated him as someone who wouldn’t be able to do much in life. He said he never believed the naysayers, and he told those kids that, despite their handicap, neither should they believe the naysayers. I watched them listen and smile — so quickly Myles had won them over. They asked practical questions such as, how was he able to get around without help, while another asked how he can do judo if he’s blind.  

Then, they were lined up for a chance to throw Myles. They were guided to Myles by their sensei. Their small hands were placed on Myles’s gi, and as they giggled and smiled, he let them throw him to the floor. Each time his body hit the mat with a slapping thud, the children cheered.

 Later, a friend asked whether I felt sorry for the kids. I didn’t. It’s hard to feel sorry for people who radiate laughter and genuine happiness. They are well-adjusted, confident, innocent children thrilled by the unique opportunity to meet an olympian who related to them in a very real and tangible way.

In those children I saw my own: there was a slender boy with caramel skin and chocolate-brown hair who softly snapped his fingers every time Myles spoke. He reminded me of Ryder. There were twin girls with hair black as night and pale skin — they covered their giggling mouths each time they threw Myles. One was willowy and the other, wiry. They had small wrists and long fingers — just like Maya and Sophie.

There are truly amazing people who do incredibly generous things for others. I am grateful for the time spent at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. It was a remarkable experience. ♥

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