It was late afternoon by the time we had received both groups and sorted out the lost luggage. We finally loaded up to head back to Coimbra.
Walking out of the terminal, I casually asked one of the caretakers how their flight had been. After answering my question, they commented that I spoke English quite well. I thanked him and told him that even though I grew up in the South, I sure hoped so.
On the ride to Coimbra, I began learning about the players and their caretakers. While all the players were now in powered wheelchairs, there were many different paths that got people there. Some through birth defect, some through disease or illness, some through physical accident or injury; the range of ages and background was startling.
Most of the caretakers were family and friends, but not entirely so. Each of them had a story as well, and it was fascinating to learn about these folks. I ended up back at the hospital for cerebral palsy where the team would eat their meals for dinner that night.
There was an outpouring of thanks for helping navigate a long and frustrating day. Meeting the team with a friendly (and bilingual) face in Portugal had made their arrival a good experience. And I felt good about that.
I had been living in pure selfish mode for months now, and it was good to be reminded of the bigger picture.
The next day, I took the team on a tour up to the university and then down to the historic district of the city. We spent the afternoon site-seeing and shopping. At sundown, I took a walk with on the fathers on top of the hill overlooking the city. He mentioned how he was so grateful for days like this one, and how I was part of a good memory for him. I remember staring into the sunset for a moment so I had an excuse for the tears if he asked.
I walked home slowly that night, full of realizations about the pettiness of my own perceived problems and troubles.