on falling

originally written december 12, 2014 | 6:27pm
i wrote it last year a few weeks after it happened and found it in my drafts again, this past december 12.
today i decided i should publish it this year.

we saw a small pine tree in the distance.
it was about halfway across the field, surrounded by big pines, now silhouetted against the last remains of what was an exquisite sunset, a few minutes previous.
the small tree was different; unlike its comrades, it was decorated in white christmas lights.

everyone else was surrounding it, our extended family of 12 or so, and we were the last to arrive.
it was quite a sight to behold; a tiny wonder among the mundane.
i walked toward it with my sister, her little son giggling and trotting alongside us.

her son, my youngest nephew, caught my attention. a smile tugged at the corners of my mouth.
he was in a hoodie that seemed like it was too small to exist (but fit him perfectly)
and jeans and little boots.
a few of the smaller of his cousins ran from the tree to greet us,
which made him giggle and squeal with joy.
they beckoned him toward the tree.

i watched as he gained speed; trying to keep up with his cousins -- small, but all older than him.
he was so happy as he gained momentum approaching the glowing tree -- ecstatic, hands flailing, short little legs running at their full capacity. so joyous. so excited!

then suddenly, his foot caught under him and he fell forward
his hands weren't fast enough to catch him, so he skidded onto the leafy ground.

it was mostly dark, and i couldn't see what exactly his obstacle was.
but i had been caught in his joyful moment just a second before
so when he fell, i was totally shocked.

like when you hear a grand piece of music, and you're invested and moved and soaring with the rhythm --
and then suddenly the conductor just halts the sound.

his fall was abrupt;
how could he fall?
he was so close to the tree!

all this flew through my mind in an instant,
but before i could move to act, he looked up toward the tree,
that winning smile on his face, giggled and struggled for a second to get up--
then he continued to run again full speed toward his destination,
his cousins still cheering him on.

i blinked.
and then blinked again.
realized i was blinking away a tear.

what the...? why--?
nope, i told myself firmly.
i hurriedly gained composure and continued toward the tree.

by this time, our little crew was sauntering toward our picnic spot (underneath a lamppost in the now-dark park).

my littlest nephew had now surpassed the tree, giggling and running in the opening beyond it.
my sister was doing her best to keep up though she had bags in tow.

i stood there alone at the tree, not quite knowing what to think.
why had his little tumble affected me so quickly, to the point of emotion?

he's a little boy.
i mean, they fall.
like...all the time.

but he had looked so victorious just a moment before, face bright and eyes on the glow ahead,
then all the sudden all he could see was the dark, cold grass.
it didn't seem fair.
but what did he do after?
he giggled.
i wondered if he realized that falling wasn't supposed to be in the plan of that victorious little kodak moment.

and then i realized: it is supposed to be in the plan.
and sometimes falling is the plan.
it's how my nephew got up that was most impressive.

you see, my nephew struggles with about 11 different cranial and neurological conditions.
he has to wear these adorable little glasses so that he can see properly.
he has a depth perception problem, seizures, and at 3 years old, he still can't talk a lot. in fact, he barely officially joined the world of the walking this past summer.

but amidst all this, he's not bothered.
when he fell, he just giggled, observed his circumstances,
and then -- eyes on the tree, he struggled a bit to get up,
and started running again.

not even walking.

why didn't he just walk, i thought to myself.
it's a lot less risky...
well, because he knew that running is much more fun, of course.
knowing full well (though maybe not cognitively comprehending) that he could fall again,
yet resuming his speed.

i stood there for a few minutes alone at that tree, watching my loving, patient gentle sister play with her son.
that's what it was: playing. she'd chase him and he'd run around, his little giggles echoing through the shadowy stretch of grass. and i observed him fall again; in fact he fell often. not a minute would go by where he wouldn't fall.

but he seemed unaffected by this;
this was all part of the game to him.
but it wasn't just part of the game,
it was part of his walking experience.

and so i realized:
falling is a part of our walking experience.

the more i stared,
the more i realized his perspective:
falling is not a setback; it is sometimes just what happens when you try to run.

and of course, when you have 11 different conditions that makes you not be able to function as properly as other kids your age.
conditions that create problems in vision, paralyzation, social anxiety, and a lot of other things.

but really, don't we all have 11 billion conditions we deal with throughout our lives?
are we not at times blinded by stress, paralyzed with depression, hiding anxiety, navigating faith crises, bearing a load that could topple us to our hands and knees over and over again?

yet oftentimes when we fall,
we are embarrassed,
feeling that one fall is a fail in our perfect beeline toward whatever glowing tree we deem worthy to run toward.

and so sometimes we get up,
looking around to see if anyone notices,
rubbing our new injuries and bruised ego
and start to saunter toward our destination.
if not grudgingly, at least a little less bushy-tailed.

other times it's easier to just stay on the ground.
less risk.

my eyes were (perhaps embarrassingly) wet a few more times as i observed him into the night.
of all the people, i thought, this extra-joyful, happy, LOVING little sweetheart of a kid would be the last person to deserve to have all these conditions and setbacks placed on him. yet he handles it like a champ.

but i realize it's not about what we deserve.
we all fall. and that’s okay.

d&c 122:8