What I Learned From a Rival, a Borrowed Sled, and the Power of Being Kind

February 20, 2018 | Community, Happiness, Tell His Story | 35 comments

I love the competition of the Olympics, and many nights you’ll find me curled up on the couch for hours taking it all in. But what I love even more than the games themselves are the stories behind the athletes, because they point to our shared humanity. They speak into the palpable ache we all have for what is true and right and good.

This is one such story. It’s a story about two men who, on paper, were supposed to hate each other. It’s the story of kindness prevailing in a world where competition is king.

Maybe it’s a story for us, in times like these.

Photo: Eric Seals, USA TODAY Sports

A month ago, American luger Chris Mazdzer was in a slump. He wasn’t finishing well in any of his races, and his competitors from around the world were baffled. A luger from Russia thought that a different piece of equipment might make the difference. So last month, after a race in Latvia, a Russian rival did something highly unexpected: He offered up his own sled to the American.

“This goes against every Russian-USA stereotype ever, but one of the Russian athletes actually wanted me to use his sled because he didn’t think he would come to the Olympics and he wanted to know what it could do,” Mazdzer told reporters this week.

Mazdzer tried out the sled. In the end, the Russian’s sled was too small. Mazdzer went to the Winter Games with his own sled.

But the point of the story isn’t the sled. The point of the story is the kindness offered.

“It shows we care about each other and there is this human connection which crosses countries and cultures and sport is an amazing way to accomplish it,” Mazdzer told reporters.

Mazdzer went on to win the silver on Sunday, becoming the first American man to win a luge medal at the Winter Games.

Photo: Edgar Su, Reuters

The sled didn’t work for Mazdzer, but maybe the kind gesture did. Maybe it’s what Mazdzer needed — someone unexpected to stand in his corner and say, “I believe in you.” I can’t say for sure.

But maybe it’s what I need right now. Maybe it’s what you need, too. It’s easy to look around the world these days and see all the cracks and fissures. It doesn’t take much effort to hear the bickering and arguing online. You can’t miss all the heartbreak and angst in our world. Sometimes, you’ve got to look a little harder to find the places where the light is still shining through.

It’s still there. The light is still there.

That’s why I curl up on the couch every night to watch the Winter Games. I am looking for the light. I am looking for it when skaters glide and twirl on the ice, and I feel my heart thump a little harder inside my chest. I am looking for the light in the stories of people who endured great injury, only to fight back and come back stronger than before. I am looking for that light whenever two athletes get lost in an embrace, with a million sets of eyes trained on them, but for a moment, it’s just the two of them, alone together.

So let’s go looking for the light, but let’s do more than that. Maybe we could go out of our way, like the rival luger, and share our light. Maybe today, we could all do something a little unexpected for someone else.

Maybe your little light … will help someone else shine. 

Photo: Eric Seals, USA TODAY Sports

The Kindness Olympics

Spread some happiness today with one of these Random Acts of Kindness. Let’s call it the Kindness Olympics! Let me know in the comments which one you’ll try!

Learn More In The Happiness Dare

To learn more about the happiness-inducing act of giving, check out pages 145-148 in my latest book, The Happiness Dare.

#TellHisStory

Each week, I host an encouraging community of bloggers who are telling their stories around the web and across the world. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT) on my blog. If you are a blogger who loves to encourage others with stories of faith and hope, you are welcome to link up with us.

Each week, I feature one of the writers in our #TellHisStory community. Our featured writer this week is Laura Rath. Friends, do you need encouragement that God is at work while we wait patiently for spring? I know I do! Laura’s words are full of truth and hope for us today. Find Laura here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. That badge can be found here. xo Jennifer


by | February 20, 2018 | Community, Happiness, Tell His Story | 35 comments

35 Comments

  1. Michele Morin

    I’m gonna get out of my chair right now and make that phone call. Thanks for the push (kinda like a luge going down the track!)

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yay! I love that, Michele. You are a ray of kindness, my friend.

      Reply
  2. Anita

    What a cool story! I always enjoy the human interest stories more than the actual events–my favorite of all time was a Summer Olympics story about a competitor from an African country that had to train in a small hotel pool (and learned how to swim at the same time). It took him so very, very long to finish his first heat that some people were getting impatient. But he just kept swimming. He came to the Olympics to compete. The people who stood around and cheered for him–those were my heroes!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh wow, Anita! Great story. Thanks for sharing it here.

      Reply
  3. Mary

    My favorite part of the Olympics are the stories about the athletes. I love knowing they are real like you and I. The story you shared gives me hope that kindness can still be found in our world.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      So glad I ran across the story, so I could share it here. Thanks for being here Mary.

      Reply
  4. Laura Rath

    Thank you Jennifer! What a pleasant surprise!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It’s my pleasure, Laura. So grateful for your words on the World Wide Web! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Nancy Ruegg

    The Kindness Olympics–LOVE it! Now there’s an event in which even a non-athlete like me can participate. I love the way kindness suddenly charges the atmosphere with good cheer, because it ushers our precious Holy Spirit into the moment. (Where his fruit is manifest, there He is also.) It’s so much FUN!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      You get the gold for the Kindness Olympics, Nancy. You are a treasure.

      Reply
      • Nancy Ruegg

        Wow–my first gold medal! Thank you, Jennifer!

        Reply
  6. Alyson | WriteThemOnMyHeart

    What a wonderful idea – kindness olympics! There are several that I want to do this week – like visiting an elderly person and overtipping a waitress. I think I’ll go for the gold! 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Go for the gold, baby. Love it!

      Reply
  7. JeanneTakenaka

    Jennifer, I so enjoy watching the Olympics, but this year, all we’ve caught was the opening ceremonies. 🙁 Just busy with life right now. I am so glad you shared the beautiful story about Mazdzer’s sled. So touching. We’ve been trying to teach our boys to look beyond themselves to those around them. I need to be more intentional about doing this too. Thank you for the list. I’m copying it so I can hold onto these ideas.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      So glad you liked the list, Jeanne. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Tara Ulrich

    Love this! I enjoy watching the Olympics too. I’m more of a Summer Olympics fan than Winter, but I’m still enjoying the Winter Olympics. This story truly does capture our humanity.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I love the skating. I think Scott’s ready for the Olympics to be over, because I keep commandeering the remote. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Meghan Weyerbacher

    This story, whaa??!! So inspiring. I want to live like this. Against the grain, grounded in love.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I know! I ran across it really randomly, and hadn’t seen anything about it at all, except one Reuters and one other outlet. I love it!

      Reply
  10. Lela Cherry

    Thank you for the encouraging post, Jennifer. May our Lord uplift you with joy unspeakable! Enjoy watching the Olympics.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Did you see last night’s skating, Lela? So, so amazing.

      Reply
      • Lela Cherry

        I did watch a bit of the women’s skating ☺️ thank you

        Reply
  11. Tiffiney Holmes

    Hey Jen! I absolutely LOVE this list
    Tape quarters to candy machines?! That’s got my name written all over it! Thanks for sharing this great story and getting our acts of kindness motors jump started. Blessing to you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I totally did that one, Tiffiney! I have no idea who was on the receiving end, but I sure had fun plenty those coins. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Theresa Boedeker

    #11 is a great one I try to do. I know I would want some encouragement after spending the day cleaning the restroom. Great list.

    Reply
  13. Rebecca

    The Kindness Olympics! I love it! Such a beautiful story that illustrates how to show love.

    Reply
  14. Deborah Will

    Jennifer I’ve been so bad fast forwarding through the stories. I need to slow down. Today I’m keeping three grandkids to give my daughter and DIL a break.

    Reply
    • Diana Abe

      As a mama of triplets ( toddlers) who doesn’t have family near, this kind gesture of yours touched my soul.
      Blessings , enjoy and spoil ur grandkids today

      Reply
  15. JViola79

    Jennifer, I absolutely loved this story when I heard it on TV! The back stories are my favorite part of watching the games. Thank you for reminding us all #KindnessWins every time!

    Reply
  16. Susan

    ♫ This little light of mine – I’m gonna let it shine. ♫

    Reply
  17. Barbara H.

    Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes story! And the reminder to let our light shine for Him.

    Reply
  18. Lisa notes

    I have enjoyed watching the Olympics and especially hearing the stories of the athletes. I didn’t know about Mazdzer and the sled. Thanks for sharing this kindness, Jennifer!

    Reply
  19. Maree Dee

    Thank you for sharing that story. It touched my heart and reminded me what life is about, caring and loving others.

    Reply
  20. Sherry Thecharmofhome

    Thanks for hosting!

    Reply
  21. Lori Schumaker

    I love all the behind-the-scene stories behind the Olympics! My athlete boys know I’ll always tune in when they have a story from one of the athletes in their basketball world, as well! It is so encouraging when kindness has an opportunity to speak louder than all the noise. Thank you for sharing this one!

    It’s great to be back here today soaking up your words ♥
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

    Reply

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