For Missy, all the world’s a trampoline.
It starts with a smile, a sudden drop, and a shout to the skies. With no effort, Missy’s thin, tiny body falls backward onto an armchair, onto a sofa, onto the bed. BOOMF! She strikes the cushion and springs back up again, standing right where she was and ready to do it all over again.
Her face brilliant in its glee, she’ll repeat the bounce twice, three times, still more. It’s contagious, really. By the second or third bounce, I’m usually laughing and cheering along with her – well, as long as the armchair hasn’t been slammed TOO hard against the wall.
It’s not hard to understand the source of the excitement, or some of it anyway. Missy, my wife’s aunt who is my age by the calendar and much younger in mind and heart, has disabilities that keep her moving through life at a careful walk, often balanced on a wall, a chair, or someone’s arm. But when she free-falls, none of that matters. All at once, she can really move. Heck, she can practically fly.
When she’s really excited, it doesn’t even matter if the chair’s occupied. Not if the person inside is someone she trusts to catch her in time, so she can bounce once more.
When she’s tired enough, the drop guides her to a safe landing and a bit of a rest. The moment was there. The movement was there. For now, that’s enough.
I think a lot of us could understand her just fine.
It’s easy to feel restricted in life. Maybe it’s through high demands at work, or family worries, or money pressures. Maybe all is outwardly fine, but you’re left wondering if you make any mark or leave any impression.
Those are the times we most need to let go into something that wakes us up again. Even if it’s a small thing. Because if it lets you rediscover the joy of the moment, it’s not that small.
A former pastor of mine, who now lives in Maine, once told me that the best advice he had ever gotten as a minister was to take up an activity that he could complete. When you’re in a job that never really ends, the mentor told him, “It’s good to be able to finish something.”
He took up carpentry. Not necessarily the greatest carpentry, he would laugh. But the quality didn’t matter. This was his motion, his letting go, his chance to connect again with the joy of creation.
Sometimes I wonder if something similar doesn’t infuse the various populist movements, for better or worse. At the federal level, we’ve often seen stubbornness that has fused into outright paralysis, where it doesn’t matter if you get anything done, so long as you can prevent the other guy from doing anything. It can be frustrating to watch, even maddening.
In a situation like that, is it any wonder that so many pursue candidates who promise forward motion, a change, a transformation? The call can draw people to the best or the worst, with no regard for the chances of victory – only the knowledge that they’re moving again, part of something bigger than themselves.
Obviously, as we’ve seen with some would-be leaders, that need can be misused. Someone who drops without watching what they’re dropping into might hit something unyielding … or fall to the floor … or smash through a sliding glass door. You have to keep your eyes open. The idea is to fall freely, not blindly.
But just because we can do it badly doesn’t mean the need isn’t there.
Let go. Aim well. Fall into something better and come back smiling.
I’ll be over here, keeping an eye on the armchair.