Joy and I made a trip to Atlanta to visit Stone and Jet weekend before last. We arrived in time to unload and settle in Friday night, but the boys had a previous engagement that took them away for a few hours. At first, Stone seemed a little uncomfortable that we were coming into town on an evening that they would be busy, but I assured him that Joy and I didn’t need a babysitter. We would have absolutely no problem finding something amazingly fun to do on our own.
With Joy’s fascination with skateboarding, we settled on a skate park that Stone suggested as our evening destination. Brook Run is a skate park in Dunwoody, Georgia, that is a short trek from his house. Before we left home on Friday, Joy had already gotten the go-ahead from friends that Brook Run is a super place to skate. She was VERY excited about our adventure.
While Joy skates in front of our house, we have no skate park in Augusta. Her opportunities to skate are limited mainly to the road and sidewalk in front of our house. So, she’s never been in a “bowl” (a large, rounded skating surface – at Brook Run, the bowl is an old swimming pool) or even done any grinding (when your board slides across the edge of a surface like a stair rail or bowl edge). She doesn’t skate super fast and she’s never had to dodge other skaters. Whether she realized it or not, I knew this was going to be at least slightly intimidating for her.
There were kids on regular and BMX bikes doing all sorts of great stunts.
And there were kids on roller blades, as well.
Some skates were in this style with four wheels in a line and some with two wheels that are set apart on opposites ends of the skates so that the middle of the skate (under the instep of the foot) is clear for grinding along rails.
Surprisingly, there were no other girl skaters and, out of all of the people at the park, a good one-third were adults in the 25-35 year old range … and they had some skills!
When we first arrived at the park, Joy took a spot on a bench and hung out to watch. Fairly quickly, a few boys took her under their wing and encouraged her to get moving. Fairly quickly, she was skating comfortably. I was pretty proud of her since this was a c.o.m.p.l.e.t.e.l.y new thing for her. I think it takes a lot of guts to step into an arena where the people around are comfortable, proficient and daring in their skill … and you are fully aware that you are not at their level. Being a pre-teen, self-conscious girl, in a tough-boy’s world, with skills that need honing …. I knew that
she took a g.r.e.a.t risk in skating away from that bench.
As she got to know her new friends and settled into a comfortable daring, I walked around the park and took photos, watching in astonishment at the prowess of these young men. They skated with great speed inside the bowl to crest the rim and then turn around and skate back down. I absolutely can.not figure out how they keep their feet and the board working together the way they do. I stood in amazement … watching every twist, turn and move.
I saw some falls and skids, but not too terribly many and none that were injurious. Look at this young man above … he’s in mid-jump. He has skated across the flat surface and used his feet to lift his board into the air and flip it over – in mid-air – several times. He finished out this move by landing on his board below the stairs and continuing to skate away … in one fell swoop. No.big.deal. While the trick did not look effortless by any means, he made it look unchallenging and completely natural. I was in constant fascination.
Sunday afternoon, we headed back over to the park where a music festival was in midswing. Brook Run is a one hundred acre park that includes a community garden, dog run, tremendous playground area, walking trails, pavilion, athletic fields and the skate park. To compliment the music festival, the skate park had an event that included some skating pros who are sponsored, so we got to spend several hours watching amateurs and pros work their magic in the bowl.
Having had the chance to watch some of these folks skate on Friday, I knew what to expect.
And yet, I didn’t.
I watched in amazement as these guys dropped off the side of the ledge and into the bowl
riding with agility and balance that was surprising.
They could grind great distances around the bowl lip and then drop back down the bowl wall with ease.
They were able to skate OUT of the bowl ONTO the flat pool-deck ground, grab the edge of their board
and walk away with deftness. (One young man does this in the video below – at around 50-55 seconds in!)
Here’s a little bit of video from the skaters who were warming up.
The one thing that stood out to me about these skaters
was how often they fell
and how they handled the fall.
They fell with grace. They planned ahead.
They knew they WOULD fall … so they had figured out how to do it.
They had done this before and they didn’t let the fear of falling
limit how daring their moves were on their board.
I thought about Frances Chan. I LOVE this video.
It’s a thought-provoking challenging watch.
As I watched these guys, I noticed that each skater had their own signature way to fall. Did you notice the falls in my little home video? Do you see how the falls differ from person to person? But, most of the guys fell the same way each time. They were ready to work through the fall, get back up and keep moving.
There were guys that would catch themselves, remain upright and run out of the fall. There were some who would hit the ground and roll through the fall and end by springing back up to standing position. And there were some that would drop to their padded knees and slide into a stop. During each fall, they were fully aware of the direction their board was traveling and who was entering the bowl. They would end their fall at a point that was usually near their board, grab the board and run out of the bowl without ever being in the way of the oncoming skater. I never saw two bodies collide or a wayward board cause a crash … not o.n.c.e.
These knees, shins and feet belong to Steven. He was amazing. He skated hard and fast. And he fell over and over and over and over. He was a slider. He would slide on his knees down to the bottom of the bowl … and without stopping, stand, grab his board and run out. I almost felt sorry for him because, he kept trying a certain trick and he fell in the same place trying the same move. repeatedly. Other skaters would take their turns and then he would drop back down to try again. My compassion for him was great.
he completed the trick without a fall and the crowd went W.I.L.D!! It was so cool!
He skated well above the bowl, did a couple of spins in mid-air and tracked right back into the bowl without a hitch.
And he won the competition.
After all those failed tries ….
after falling and falling and falling …
after me feeling sorry for him ….
he succeeded and walked away a hailed victor.
I thought about the obvious comparison to our spiritual lives and how many people live protected and secluded, walled up behind a shield to keep pain and injury out. I thought about our fears that paralyze us and force us to stay on the bench … never taking the risk to do what we feel almost qualified to do in a world of skilled, well-balanced, talented people. And I thought about how the fear of falling leaves us standing on the sideline … outside the bowl where the action lies … holding onto our tools … and but too fearful of falling …. to dip over the edge and into that bowl where victory can be found.
We are all going to fall … if we get off the bench. We should be challenging ourselves to get past the fear and make a move. We should be watching for the feat that “ours” to master. To help remove the fear, we can make the decision on HOW we’re going to fall.
How about you? You’re going to fall …. well … if you get off the bench. What will it look like? Are you going to roll through it and jump to your feet? Would you rather slide through a skid, swipe up your board in a single motion and then smoothly move back to your feet? Or would you be more comfortable staying on your feet and running through the fiasco? Because knowing how to maneuver through the fall allows you to eliminate the fear and and do the brave thing … do something outside your comfort zone … something worth the risk … something to celebrate.
Falls come in every arena of our lives. We fail our friends by not showing up on time. We fail our family by snapping at them when we get home when our homes should be a safe haven of kindness and forgiveness. We fail our neighbor and our bosses and our parents.
And sometimes, we feel like we have failed because we pour ourselves into others
and they reject us.
The key is to figure out how you’re going to take these defeats.
We can bemoan our lives as being hard and fret over our bad hand dealt …
or we can keep going knowing that we live in a fallen world where difficult things happen.
The question is, how will we handle the fall?