We All Fall Down


Dear Ashley,

As you know, I seldom go for my daily walk at 4 o’clock on a work day afternoon. But about a year ago, for no particular reason (or so I thought), I made an exception – and I’m very glad I did.  As I came to the round-a-bout at the corner of Segovia and North Greenway, I saw a little boy pass in front of the church on his bicycle just ahead of his dad. I could tell from the nervous wobble in his handlebars and the not-exactly-straight path that he was tracing on the sidewalk that the little boy was just learning to ride a two-wheeler, but he was doing a great job for a beginner. I smiled to myself as I continued on my way remembering, like it was yesterday, teaching you and your brother to ride when you were that little boy’s age.

A few blocks later, I looked up and, in the distance, saw the bike in a heap next to the sidewalk and the little boy sobbing in his dad’s arms. By the time I arrived at the “scene of the accident” the little boy was back on his feet standing next to his now upright bike. His dad was trying, unsuccessfully, to coax him to get back on. I stopped and got down into a catcher’s squat so that I could see into the still tear-stained eyes of the little boy. Not gonna lie, his dad was a little freaked out at first! “Excuse me,” I began. “Was that you I saw riding this bike way back there at the church?” He nodded, shyly. “Do you mean to tell me that you rode this bike all the way from that church to here and this was the first time you fell down,” I asked. He nodded again, this time with the slightest hint of pride. “That’s AMAZING,” I blurted out. “You are a really good bike rider!” “See, I told you,” his dad chimed in. “What do you say?” “Thank you,” the little boy responded.

Seeing an opening, I continued. “I don’t know whether your dad told you this,” I said, “but everyone who rides a bike falls off from time to time – even your dad and me.” He glanced up at his dad looking for affirmation that I was telling the truth. “He’s right,” his dad quickly responded. “But here’s a secret your dad may not have told you,” I whispered: Only really brave bike riders get right back on their bikes and start riding again.” I paused for a moment, got up with a smile, wished him luck, told him to keep up the good work and headed off down the sidewalk. A block and a half later, I looked over my shoulder and saw the little boy speeding back down the sidewalk with a renewed sense of confidence, a few “battle scars” and a smile from ear-to-ear matched only by my own.

Would that little boy have gotten back on his bike if I hadn’t stopped? Probably. Would he have gotten back on it with the same sense of confidence and a smile? I’m much less certain of that. Would I have had the wisdom and courage to offer him the few words of praise and encouragement that I did five years ago? I seriously doubt it. You see, Ashley, you were the one who, through your suffering, taught me the importance of seizing moments like that one. You are the reason that little boy got back on that bike. It was your “voice” (albeit with me acting as your spokesperson) that gave him the courage, despite his fall, to get back up, brush himself off and give it another try. He and I thank you for those gifts – from the bottom of our hearts.

With All My Love,



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