One of the sweetest experiences I’ve had in the music field is working on the Special Olympics theme song. Steve James, a friend & fellow music artist, had a cousin who was very involved in the Utah program as a participant. After moving to Salt Lake City, I was asked to sit on the board of directors for this state’s organization, & the creation of a theme song just seemed to come together.
The beautiful part of it was getting to work with the Special Olympians and learn about the best things in life from people like Bart. Bart is Steve’s cousin. Bart has mental & physical challenges that have profoundly impacted him as well as his family. Bart is an angel on this earth, & has been a gift to me…. As well as all who know him.
Maybe because of Bart, & other heavenly folks like him, I’ve seen with my own eyes- and felt with my own heart- what it’s like to be in the company of those who “get” the message of the scripture, “Come unto Christ and be perfected in him.” [Moroni 10:32]
Here are a few of reasons why:
- Bart used to love to ‘run’ in the track portion of the Special Olympic games. Because his legs would not provide him with proper strength or structure, he would fall. Repeatedly. But each time, he’d get back up and continue his race. I still have a picture of him which was run in the Deseret News back in May of 1998. It showed Bart crossing the finish line with a big smile on his face. Every single person in the photo was smiling. Beautiful! What the article didn’t say was that Bart was crossing that finish line long after everyone else, finishing ‘dead last.’ He didn’t care. He finished the race.
- Bart once had an exercise of shooting a basketball through the hoop three times. It was hard, focused work which took him a very long time. When he finally got that third ball through the basket – long past the point where I would have, in complete frustration, thrown in the towel – that huge smile on his face spoke volumes. No whining, no anger, nor frustration. Just a commitment to getting the job done, & joy when it was completed!
- Bart worked hard to earn his Eagle Scout award. He was nearing the age of forty when he completed the work. At his program, the love of all who worked with him was evident. Tears enough to fill a jar were wept by those who love, learn from, and appreciate him. At the reception afterward, Bart placed his hands on Steve’s shoulders, looking him deeply in the eyes. In his hard-to-understand words, he said, “Remember who you are. Heavenly Father loves you.” It was a breathtaking moment; one in which the veil seemed to part for just a blink. I “saw” the real Bart, who stands tall, valiant and whole. I felt the strength of his love, & the gift of his faith. He knows who he is. And whose he is.
Bart is “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” [Philippians 1:11] It has been quite a few years since I last saw Bart. I think of him often. His example has been so profound in my life that I’ll forever be grateful to him. Many are the times I remember the basketball, the counsel given to an extended family member, the race.
Precious Bart, with his continual example of living life a higher way. The best way. And I wonder: Is Bart one of those the apostle Paul spoke on when he said, “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: For thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” [Hebrews 13:1-3]
The sweetest spiritual fruits are the ones we freshly utilize on a daily basis, moving closer to Christ and bringing others along with us. Bart understands what finish lines are really all about. When he crosses that line of “mortal mission completed” I believe he knows he will have capacity to run to his Savior, having won the race in all the ways that count. Will I?
Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, and grandmother who had the blessing of joining the LDS Church as a teenager. She has worked for many years to share her testimony of Jesus Christ with other folks. Her propensity for being the queen of embarrassing moments notwithstanding, she sums up her journey thus far like this: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She has taught Church youth & family programs for 25 years, and has written books, hundreds of columns, & created hundreds of songs all with the intent of growing goodness and pointing people to Christ. Her latest venture is to create a website to focus on, bring attention to, and grow the goodness in this world. Please visit her website at www.goodnessmatters.com