Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Chest thrown out, back straight, he wielded all the power in his tiny 4-year-old frame to hold onto his birthday gift. And what a gift – 18 inches of glorious orange board and bright blue wheels. His first skateboard, and he was going to carry that board himself, just like his 13 year old brother up ahead – or else! The dense plastic and steel hardware, however, added up to a surprising amount of weight, and watching him determinedly try to hold onto it, you’d almost think it was alive, squirming in his grasp. It was dark now as we headed up the dirt road towards our Costa Rican home, and we all had to be alert to clear the way for the occasional motorcycle or car. Even so, Damian was holding all of our attention. He refused assistance of any kind. We couldn’t hold his helmet, he wouldn’t let us hold onto one side of the skateboard for him, and he would not, under any circumstances let us take that board away from him. He’d fallen earlier, skinning his knee, but got right back up declaring loudly that he was fine and continued on.
At first, honestly, I was annoyed, but that soon shifted into amusement. The more he persisted, the more I began to admire his resolve. He had seen his brother walk with his skateboard on that same road so many times before, and no one was going to steal that glory…not now! I offered to help in every way I could think, walking with him as he fell behind from the group. He would not let me even touch him to offer support, and he even got annoyed when I began walking behind him, as if somehow that was interfering with his journey. Three quarters of the way up the hill, he finally reached his limit. I looked at him feeling helpless, as he glared at the board, the hill and the world with pure fury. I got a glimpse of the strength of this little man, and I only felt love. He reached down again and angrily picked up his burden. Sensing an impending meltdown, I impulsively scooped him up and started walking. He seemed startled at first, as I cradled his toddler form against me, but the skateboard was still firmly in his arms. I could almost see the gears turning in his head, and then he said, almost wonderingly, “you can carry me.” He seemed to decide that as long as he was still holding the skateboard, it was ok. Finally he contentedly said “I love you.” He often tells us that, being a loving child, but this time it meant something more.
If we let them, our children will teach us so much. What a perfect balance of sheer commitment to a dream, and willingness to accept loving assistance from another. How many times do we slog doggedly on, committed to a paradigm of “rugged individualism” and a world view of hard work as a virtue? How often do we hesitate to step in and ease the burden of a fellow human, believing that we take something from them by being there for them. There is no virtue in doing it alone. We didn’t come here to learn separation, to look the other way, or to disdain a helping hand. Together, connected and united, we can accomplish so much more. Loving assistance, lovingly offered, is a chance to co-create a more beautiful world, to bypass the tangled noise of a discordant system and step into a better life in harmony with other loving souls.