On one of my walks last week I came upon this small hill at the same moment as a girl—about 4 years old, I’d say—and her dad. They had stopped their bicycles, and they stood at the top of the slope looking down. I eavesdropped:
Dad: You can do it, honey.
Girl: It’s too high.
Dad: Give it a try. I’ll be right behind you.
Girl: I don’t want to. It’s too high.
Dad: Would you like me to go beside you, at the same time?
Dad: Okay then. Just give it a try. If you do it once, it will be easier next time.
Girl: Ooooh . . . kay . . .
The hill measured about 25 feet in length and had a grade of maybe 20 degrees. To my eyes, to her father’s eyes, to the eyes of anyone who would have passed by at that moment, it seemed a small thing. When she looked at it, she saw Kilimanjaro.
She stared her mountain down and mustered courage. She pushed off hesitantly, guided her bicycle to the grass beside the asphalt path—to cushion her fall if she fell, I assume—and slowly rode down the slope. She stopped at the bottom and looked up at her father.
Dad: You did it!
Girl: (in a disgusted tone) Yeah. On the grass.
Dad: That’s okay. It’s a good start.
This brief interlude seemed to me a microcosm of what people of all ages go through over and over again. New challenges come up in our lives. They scare us, so we try to avoid them. Sometimes we never overcome the fear, and we live our whole lives taking routes around small hills that we see as big mountains. If we’re lucky, we have someone beside us to encourage us to conquer the feat and to celebrate with us when we complete it.
Don’t we all make new challenges greater, larger, scarier than they really are? Don’t we all start slowly, on a safe route with cushioning in case we fall? And don’t we all diminish our successes?
I have this card posted on my fridge:
Like the father of that little girl, this card encourages me to give things a try, so I don’t spend my life taking routes around small hills that look like big mountains. All the good stuff lies on the other side of challenges that seem scary at first.