Does the name Andrew Peterson mean anything to you? (No, not the musician or the author).
I’m talking about the Andrew Peterson who overcame Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to become a three-time Special Olympics Gold Medalist and the second Special Olympics athlete to qualify for the Boston Marathon (which he is scheduled to run next year, a month after he represents the United States in the upcoming 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi).
The predominant factor in Andrew’s ability to overcome was (and is) his father, Craig – who adopted Andrew and his three siblings about 20 years ago, when Andrew was five years old. At that time, Andrew couldn’t speak and had limited motor skills. When he was eight years old, Andrew ran his first race, a 3K, with his dad.
Andrew’s story inspires confidence that it is not impossible to overcome adversity.
(Sidebar: and speaking of difficulties, I’m sure the fact that Andrew is black and his father is an openly gay white man didn’t make life easy either. I encourage you to read more about this remarkable athlete and his father, who dared to adopt a total of six special needs children, proving that love doesn’t discriminate!).
Not only has Andrew established himself as an elite athlete. He also shares his experience as a public speaker and serves as an ambassador for the Special Olympics.
When we experience obstacles, frustration, or failure, perhaps we can learn something from Andrew, like the importance of developing the endurance needed to attain a good outcome; building enough stamina to be able to stand through any storm that life brings our way; and surrounding ourselves with good, positive, and supportive people.
We must think positively, live in faith, refuse to take “no” for an answer, be empowered by each accomplishment (no matter how small), and believe anything is possible if we persevere.
A little more than a week ago, Andrew shared his story with a group of elementary students in Billings, Montana. He recalled how in elementary school most kids couldn’t understand his speech and laughed at him and called him names. He told them how he struggled to walk and hold a fork.
“Since I have brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome, nothing in life has been easy … So many people focused on what I couldn’t do … I showed them,” Andrew told the students before delivering his takeaway: “I don’t ever want your pity. Rather, I need your respect.”
My conclusion: Don’t allow obstacles to dominate your life. Find the strength to work through the difficulties and setbacks. Don’t dwell on the past. Surround yourself with people who are good for you. Keep moving forward.