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By Forrest Hershberger
View from the Handlebars 

An Oddest of Challenges


I read a comment recently that would probably make most parents drop their morning coffee.

The earth-shaking comment goes against everything most parents would consider “fair and holy.” It is the kind of statement that doesn’t make sense on the average day… until you read deeper. Then maybe.

How many parents would wish pain on their children? “None of sound mind” is the likely answer. The mindset of parents is to spare their children from the trials and grief they have gone through. They want their children to have a better life than they experienced.

But what if we’re overthinking things? What if instead of sacrifice, a parent’s sacrifice, the next generation needs endurance? “Um, OK. I’ll bite. How do you develop endurance?” Some of you might ask. It’s not comfortable. The part we don’t want to admit is we grow, develop, when we are pushed out of our comfort zones.

The movie “Forrest Gump” for as quirky as it is, has many subtle lessons. Growing up with braces on his legs, constantly teased by other school boys he ran out of fear. Then later ran because he could. One of the monumental scenes is when he decided to just run, and ran for hundreds of miles with fans and clubs clinging to him like a hippie god or something. In reality, running is what he did to get away from the pain. It is what he did until he couldn’t anymore.

“So where’s the connection?” You ask.

Had he not had pain, the school bullies, he wouldn’t have run. Had it not become his crutch, he wouldn’t have earned the incidental recognition he did. Conversely, had his mom spared him from the trauma of school boys, would he have run, or even walked straight? Would he have just accepted what is as what will always be?

The trauma of a potential beat-down, the fight or flight, resulted in his running ability.

There are things parents can and should prevent their children from experiencing. However, there are experiences that could be significant life lessons. When our daughter was young, a staffer in the office I was at talked about how he taught his kids the dangers of bicycling in traffic. In a controlled manner, the child gets to experience the sting of metal, and is told if she is hit by a car, the sting is many times worse. She never had a problem on the street.

Sometimes it concerns me the outcry when someone has to work two jobs and live on soup and sandwiches for a time. It concerns me because it eliminates “paying their dues” for going directly to the campfire songs and warm grasses. The beautiful meadows of the high mountains, the crystal clear lakes, are the reward of hiking rocky trails, sometimes for miles.

Scars are the signs of a person taking a chance. Some of us start collecting scars sooner than others. Regardless, They show we lived.

Maybe the message from this awkward scholar is to focus more on living than avoiding pain. Maybe the real encouragement should be “just enough.” Have just enough pain to be encouraged to seek something more, to enjoy the sunshine more, just enough soft grass to know the pain doesn’t last forever, just enough hugs and warm kisses to always know you’re important, enough pain to know few things in life last forever.


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