The years teach much which the days never know. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
My four-year-old son wore the same pair of green frog rain boots every day for over a year. He wore them in the rain, of course, but he also wore them in blizzards and on hot July days. He wore them when he went to school and the grocery store and the swimming pool. He wore them when he played soccer or rode his bike or dressed up as a superhero. He wore them everywhere.
After a while the boots started breaking down. It began with a few cracks and then some rips which created little flaps that fluttered in the air as he ran. Every once in a while I’d come across a new piece that had fallen off—in the house, the car, his bed. I was waiting for the day the boots dismantled mid-stride into a crumbled heap on the ground. Until then, I knew that if I couldn’t find him, I just needed to follow the green rubber trail.
The boots received endless commentary wherever we went. Most people laughed. Some were confused. A few even offered to buy him a new pair. But I explained this was a love affair that no one could ever break up.
He chose those battered boots, over and over again, and over all other shoes. I bought him new flip-flops and new sneakers, but he always chose the boots. Even when they deteriorated to a point that when it actually rained, they remained wet, he still chose the boots. Especially on rainy days. He chose them because although he liked other shoes, he loved the boots.
And by loving those boots, he reminded me about what it really means to love.
To love means to make a choice, the same choice, over and over again. It’s a knowing choice, a thoughtful choice, a deliberate choice.
It may not always be a logical or practical or comfortable choice. In fact, it often isn’t.
But love doesn’t care so much about those details. Love doesn’t bother with logic and practicality and comfort. Love doesn’t worry about disgrace or damage. Love turns a blind eye to other options, including the sparkly new ones. Love hangs on in a breakdown. And in a storm.
When we love, we don’t see the cracks or the rips. Because love clings to the tried and true. And all of those cracks and rips come with the trying. But it is only by trying that we get to the true. And once we get to the true, we keep coming back, to make the same choice one more time, over and over again.
When we love, we have found something that is indispensable…to our hearts, to our lives, to our stories. We have found our true.
There’s a lot to love about a little boy and his green frog rain boots.
There’s a lot to learn about love as well.
Last weekend our friends invited us to their pool for the afternoon. We told our boys ahead of time that this “new pool” has a high dive and they could barely contain their excitement. When we walked up to the entrance and they finally saw the high dive, in the concrete flesh, they jumped and cheered and ran in circles like our pug when he chases his semi-curly tail. Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?
Oh the agony of adult swim!
The six-minute countdown was on and they stared at the clock, willing the second hand to go faster. Can we go? Can we go? Can we go? Eventually the lifeguard blew the whistle and the kids lined up at the ladder and began their ascents.
They didn’t even hesitate like I thought they would. They just went for it.
They walked to the end, looked out at the water below, gave a last minute glance to those of us on the deck cheering them on, and jumped. They threw their bodies into the air and their fears into the wind. They touched the clouds.
It was kind of amazing.
Because I expected some jitters and a few trips back down the ladder. I expected long pauses at the end of the board. I expected a one-and-done experience, maybe even a one-and-done-and-never-again experience.
But instead they kept going, over and over again, for hours. They climbed, they ran, they jumped. They never wanted to stop.
Except, of course, when one tried a “twister” and hit the water in a big back-flop. Then it was time for towels and tears and hugs.
My boys surprised me that day. More importantly, they taught me a lot about life.
Because life is like a high dive.
Life has climbs and planks and a lot of bounce. Life is scary but also exhilarating because it is so scary. Sometimes we keep going, over and over again. But sometimes we have to take breaks like vacations and naps and adult swims.
Life has risk and reward and choices. Sometimes we decide to turn around and return to where we started. But sometimes we take leaps of faith. We may surprise ourselves. We may surprise everyone.
Sometimes there are soft landings. But sometimes we flop and it stings. And then we cry and need a hand out of the water.
Thankfully, if we’re lucky, we have people on deck. They are the holders of the towels, the people who love us and encourage us no matter how big a splash we make, no matter how many times we screw up, and no matter how many times we turn around and go back down the ladder. They stand ready and they aren’t afraid to get wet.
Life is like a high dive, full of fun and fear and second chances. Sometimes we wince. But sometimes we soar.
Life is kind of amazing that way.