Golden Hopes in an Ironed-On Jersey

My younger brother just recounted a lovely and heartwarming story that occurred during the 1984 Olympic Games. Those were the Games held in our hometown of Los Angeles. It was a festive time in the City of Angels: no traffic; neighbors gathering together and actually speaking with one another; thousands of volunteers supporting the Games (my little mom was one); and, the Games. It was a truly special time in Los Angeles. Almost magical.

My brother – a young ,aspiring musician – worked at a sporting goods store off the campus of USC, near the Olympic Village where the athletes were in residence. Minimum wage but he loved his job, and knew more about the merchandise than most sporting goods reps. And truth be known, my little brother simply loves people. Happy to chat with anyone, and eager to be of service. My brother is known and loved by all, ever since he was a little kid running around the neighborhood. And it continues today as he moves into middle-age.

He told us about the two squads of young Cameroon and Mexican athletes who were so poor that they had come into his little store for help in pulling together their team shirts so they could compete. Let me say that again: these Olympic athletes from Cameroon and Mexico, after years of training, made it to the pinnacle of sport, but could not afford uniforms to compete.

My little brother carefully ironed on numbers onto tee shirts for these athletes. I remember that my brother felt that he had been entrusted with a very special responsibility and sensed how very poor these athletes were who made it all the way to the Olympics. His store owners agreed to provide the tee-shirts and other clothing at a big discount. As the teams left the store, my brother gave them a big smile and best wishes for a good competition. If he had had any money, he would have given them the little tee shirts. Hell, he would have given all the money in his wallet, if he had any. All he could do was do his best – to make the best make-shift uniforms possible. With deep respect and care, he emblazoned those tee shirts with numbers and names to make the Cameroon and Mexican athletes proud.

Later that week, my brother shared that one of the Mexican athletes who was competing in walking returned to his little store: the athlete was wearing that little tee shirt jersey prepared with great care by my brother. And, with a twinkle in his eye, he also wore gold medal around his neck.

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