I spent time yesterday with three of my grandchildren. We ended up at one of their favorite hangouts, Soar Trampoline Park in Webb City. With special pricing on Wednesdays and the start of school next week signaling the end of summer break, the place was packed with jumpers.
My granddaughter tried, without success, to get me to join in on the fun. After healing from 20 years of chronic sciatica, my legs feel great! And…I am cautious about doing anything that would injure them or cause pain. I chose to engage in one of my favorite activities while the kids jumped…people watching.
As I observed kids and youth and adults bouncing on the trampolines, I realized I was seeing living examples of character qualities that people display as they journey through life. Once that idea entered my head, people watching became an intriguing game.
The Fearful One – It was easy to spot the jumpers who were visiting a trampoline park for the first time. Their bodies were stiff and tense. One small boy kept his legs straight and his arms at his sides, as he barely bounced on the trampoline, his wide eyes fastened on his mom for reassurance. He was afraid to relax and really enter into the flow of what was happening around him.
The Wish-I-Was-Invisible One – This self conscious jumper hung out on the fringes, watching others having fun, wanting to join in, but reluctant in case others noticed him and perhaps ridiculed him. It was safer to remain in the corner and hope no one looked his way.
The I’m-Learning One – This girl was obviously not a seasoned jumper, but she was so willing to learn. She tried. She failed to complete a somersault or do a handstand. She tried again. Her focused concentration was evident and I was concerned she would bite the lip she was chewing on as she practiced what she was learning.
The I’ve-Got-This One – These were the jumpers with experience on the trampolines. They flipped, forward and backwards, cartwheeled down the long line of trampolines and leapt impossibly high into the air and then somersaulted back down. My grandkids fall into this category. They are relaxed, unafraid to try something new and so at ease that they don’t notice whether anyone is watching them or not.
The Risk Taking One – Every crowd has one, the person who pushes the envelope, breaks the rules, and lives on the rush of adrenaline. My grandsons cross over occasionally into this category. Yesterday I watched a tall young man reveling in the role of risk taker. He played just beyond the rules. He bounced, literally, off of the walls and the platforms and the poles. The wide grin on his sweaty face revealed how much he enjoyed his revved up jumping and wiping out in a spectacular fall didn’t slow him down one bit.
The Poor-Me One – This small boy was at a disadvantage in the crowded indoor park, and he knew it. He cried if someone bounced on his trampoline. He wanted to have fun but just couldn’t let go of his insistence that people had to recognize his unhappiness. He displayed anger and frustration and ultimately refused to play with others, placing himself on the bench.
The Competitive One – This was the young lady who wanted to be noticed…and applauded and considered the best. Everything was a competition and when her friends grew tired of playing “who’s the best at…” and went off to have their own fun, this girl attempted to make new friends who would compete against her. Winning was everything.
The Mean One – This kid wasn’t playful, he was deliberately unkind. He was small but compensated by stirring up trouble, challenging other kids, fouling up other jumpers and calling kids names. This behavior wasn’t allowed, once staff became aware of his antics, and a parent was pulled aside and talked to. The child was removed, by his weary looking parent, for a time out…and he wasn’t happy about it.
The Joyful One – When I wasn’t watching my own grandchildren jump and play, I looked for this little girl. She was about six years old, with a long braid down her back. She wasn’t an experienced jumper. I only ever saw her leap up into the air and back down again. But oh how joyful she was. When she jumped she flung her arms and legs out with glee, in all directions. Over and over again she bounded upward, laughing, throwing her head back with total surrender to the moment. She was not self conscious. There were no comparisons or competitions or fears. There was just joy and I smiled every time I caught sight of her.
I’ve journeyed long enough to have inhabited most of the qualities I saw on display yesterday. I am grateful that we are never stuck in any place, longer than we want to be. We grow as we go, and slip in and out of various roles until at last our hearts resonate with the rightness of who we are, who we have become. Even then, circumstances or hurts can cause us to wear a different persona for a while, primarily as a form of protection. But once we know who we are, it is much easier to return to that state of being.
Had I agreed to play on the trampolines, my fear of getting hurt most likely would have tilted me into wishing I was invisible so no one would notice me while I tested out my legs. I hope I would have quickly transitioned into one who surrendered to the fun and the experience and the moment.
I am determined now to try. I want to jump…jump for joy.