Yesterday I received one of those ominous screen messages that my ‘storage was almost full’. This is always a troubling thing because I don’t know exactly what to do and I have a hunch that, whatever it is, would eat up enormous amounts of time as most computer related fixes do. But someone told me that when this happens that getting rid of photos and videos I have snapped in the moment and that now sit there for posterity is a good way to ‘free up storage space’. This process, too, can lead a person down the rabbit hole but I gave it my best shot.
While I was clicking and deleting I came across a photo I had taken sometime this summer outside our neighborhood coffee shop. I had walked into the shop to get my morning cup of joe and as I left noticed a pair of training wheels for a child’s bike abandoned on the colorful bench by the door. I stopped and laughed as my mind began to create the story of what had happened that led to their being chucked at this particular spot.
Had some parent convinced a child that now, now, was the moment and removed them? Had the rider of the tiny bike been inspired with the confidence they needed to ride on into the day using only two wheels? How did it go? What kind of wobbly action had been executed on that busy sidewalk?
It led me to remember when our oldest son, a pretty busy, daring lad, had wanted to have his training wheels removed. Our neighbor was on hand and was armed with whatever tool is needed to remove said wheels. His own son, less busy and less daring than our own, was also present. As the neighbor began to remove the training wheels from our son’s bike, he did so from his son’s as well. His logic was that if one wanted to do this, they both should. It would save time and energy in the long run. In the end, it all worked out and both boys moved on with a notch of freedom on their belts that they hadn’t had the day before. For those two lads it was only the first notch of many toward freedom that they made together.
Training wheels. Whether riding bikes or just walking in the world, we have visible and invisible training wheels that help us keep some balance when we are yet unable to execute the real movement of a particular task. Training wheels keep us safe and build our confidence. Training wheels can help us trust our bodies and our minds to work together. Training wheels provide a stepping stone that moves us forward to something we had only imagined possible.
I don’t know about you but there are places in my life where I feel as if I am still using my training wheels. I am still using training wheels when it comes to compassion…kindness…gentleness…toward others and myself. It seems to me that as a culture we are still making the fits and starts that require training wheels when it comes to acts and lives of justice in our world. I know people who have taken off their training wheels and are able to ride fully into all these but I am not one of them. Perhaps you are not either.
Pablo Picasso once said “Everything you can imagine is real.” When our son was riding his bike with training wheels, I am certain he imagined what it would feel like, how he would look once he had graduated to a two wheeler. His imagination gave him the courage to ask for the training wheels to be removed. As I continue to imagine what living a life of greater compassion, kindness and gentleness feels like and how I would look doing this I am buoyed to begin taking off the training wheels and rushing headlong into this fuller life I can imagine. Everything I can imagine is real.
Today, we may each need training wheels. But tomorrow…who knows? We may be ready to get whatever tool is needed and abandon the illusion of dependence and find our own balance…for our own healing and the healing of the world.