Lessons from the Playground

How often do we learn the most from the least likely to teach us?

This week I had the joy of being able to take my little 6 year old friend out for a girls day. She is, by far, one of the coolest people I know. Having had a fun day of shopping and eating, we decided to make our way to the local playground. Now this isn’t just any playground, it’s a super-charged playground with several yards of various colorful apparatuses to conquer.

As she began to climb the castle, she stopped in her tracks when coming to a roped feature that connected the two towers. The flooring had ended and the roped webbing became the route in which she had to tread to continue her conquest of the castle. She decided that this feature was too scary and not worth the fear it created. She gave up and turned around. She did this several times at various spots on the playground. I could see she was missing out on a lot of fun, but all she could see is that this was a giant obstacle that was too scary.

Eventually, we came to a rather frightening spiral ladder… the ladder was tilted, making it a slightly more difficult ladder to climb than your average ladder. Because of her short stature, she couldn’t see what was beyond the ladder, but I could. And I knew that she’d want to partake in what fun awaited her at the top. To my amazement, she left the ground and began the ascent. She made it about 3 seconds before telling me this was too scary and asking me to help her down.

Now if I thought she couldn’t make it, by all means, I would’ve given in and lifted her down. But I knew she could do this thing that scared her.

At this moment, I wanted to tell her so many things. I wanted to tell her that life was messy and hard and, at many times, scary. I wanted to tell her that fear would be a frequent visitor and would tempt her into taking the easy, safe way out. I wanted to tell her that giving into fear is not the way to life… it’s not the way to joy– or intimacy– or vulnerability.

I wanted to tell her about the evil that has come from people motivated by fear. The racism, the discrimination, the hate. I wanted to tell her the mistakes people make because of fear. I wanted to tell her about the amazing things people miss out on because they give up out of fear.

I wanted to tell her all of these things. I even wanted to lift her off the ladder so she wouldn’t have an unpleasant experience. But I didn’t.

Because here’s a secret I’ve been learning… a pleasant life is not always a rich life.
The safeness and steadiness quickly wear off and give way to superficiality and boredom.

Instead, I stood behind her… close to her… and I told her that I just knew she could do it. I told her that I wouldn’t let anything happen to her. I told her that we’d work through this together.

After a moment, she decided that she could take just one more step, which turned into another and another. I let her inch along. Finally, she made it to the top. She was ecstatic. She was empowered. “Oh Kate, I am Merida from Brave“, she yelled. “Yes, you are… you always were,” I replied.

Having completed this feat, she began attempting other playground equipment that scared her. And before long, she had free reign of the playground. As the sun set, I could see joy radiating from her.

And once again I realized, life lessons are often learned from the least likely to teach us.

13 thoughts on “Lessons from the Playground

  1. such a good post!! you are so articulate and paint such a great picture with your words. and what a great message, one that all of us, old and young, can learn from. love it!

  2. Oh this is just a lovely story with a strong message! Little 'Merida' just needed your encouragement, and she was able to accomplish so much more than she could before. There was more within her than she could ever imagine. It's hard to remember that sometimes. You will miss out on so many marrow-sucking experiences when you give into fear.Also, you are quite a good blogger. : )

  3. Singing– thank you so much. This lesson was so potent to me that writing this blog almost seemed necessary. Thanks for reading it and for supporting me. And teaching me.

  4. Kakewen, this was beautiful! You may not be able to see what's ahead of the ladders you are climbing in your life right now, but things are rarely as scary as they seem. You will conquer the obstacles in your path today, and tomorrow there will be new obstacles! It's part of growing, gaining wisdom and sharing wisdom! Someday you will look back and be able to help someone else up the same ladder you are climbing today with the wisdom you gain! 🙂 You'll grow stronger everyday! 🙂

  5. Wow! Katelin, I would like to say that your gifts of inspiration, stability, compassion, independence, intellect, and above all loving others at all costs come from your loving legacy…but that doesn't really give credit where it is due,even though you do indeed know that you are loved beyond words by all of your family! As your Papaw used to say…"We are not owners of anything….just caretakers…it all belongs to our heavenly Father anyway…so be a good steward!" And he was right! Your Daddy & I are so blessed that God chose us to be your, and Josh, and Nathan's earthly parents. He gave you to us & what a blessing! From the time you & your brothers were in the oven you have been loved and prayed for…present and future! I know that you've heard this verse before but it's one of my favorites & I think it's always a good reminder…"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11Love you more…don't say a word! Mom

  6. Katelin,I am so impressed with you and your words of wisdom. What an amazing story,you should be a writer.God has blessed you with many wonderful gifts that you should always share!! I love how you encouraged and supported the little girl but you didn't do it for her. Your role here is so much like how Heavenly Father is with us,always there to support us through our trials and always encouraging us to grow. Thanks for sharing and continuing your Papaws legacy!! Love you, Karen Smith

  7. I love you beyond words! I apologize in advance for how selfishly I took your words. I am meeting with a friend today to discuss some important opportunities for both myself and for her, and I am so afraid of the response I may get, or failure in general. I often choose not participate in certain activities or events because of fear, and it is amazing how many opportunities that I have missed out on because of the wall that I create in front of myself. But the truth is, none of us are alone and we always have the biggest cheerleader anyone could ever ask for rooting for us. Thank you for your transparency and I hope that I can learn to have the courage of a child tonight! Love you!

  8. Mrs. Karen… thanks so much for all your love and support. I consider writing a joy and always appreciate hearing your opinion and encouragement with it. I agree… sometimes the best way to work through something scary is to just take it inch by inch, to communicate honestly, and to not give up. And the lessons learned from letting one do that by oneself are significant. Thanks for your voice here. Love you too.

  9. Thanks so much, sister. I'm so glad that you are in my life. I'm also grateful that this writing helped in a small way. That is why I desire to write and why I'm trying to be as transparent as possible… because I think we are all not that different after all. We all have to fight fear. Some of us become crippled and then use excuses like wanting to stay content. Some of us shakily try to find just a little bit of courage, a little bit of light, and with lot of prayers saying "help," we choose to face our fears. To climb the ladder. To live.

  10. I wish I could bottle your talent up and use it like Ursula. I always love reading your blogs, and you are sooo very very right. Fear is a hard lesson I had to conquer this year as well, but when someone you trust is behind you encouraging you along your climb it can give your the strength you think you lack, but really was there all along. Trust, love, and above all else faith is always there to guide you. Love you sister! And look forward to more blogs… ;D

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