FARGO — For my sister’s 11th birthday she received a three-speed bicycle. My goodness was she proud of that bike. She barely let it out of her sight.
She was quick to tell friends they could not ride her new bike, but she had one extremely persistent person asking her to ride it — her 9-year-old brother — me! I do not have many talents, but one of my strengths is not quitting once I put my mind to something. I needed to ride her bike, so I wouldn’t stop asking, aka guilting, her until she said yes.
Eventually, I wore her down. One day she said, “You can ride my bike but only to the end of our block and back. No more than that,” she emphatically told me. I took off as she nervously ran with me.
At the end of the block, I headed towards the curb to have maximum room for completing the U-turn. I knew I needed to slow down by rotating the pedals counterclockwise. When I did so, the most unusual thing happened. The sprocket simply spun backwards with no resistance. What was going on? I was in shock. In the meantime, I was heading for the curb, not knowing how to slow down. I hopped the curb. I went flying into the grass as the bike kept going without me and toppled over.
My sister? She was shouting while crying. “My bike. My bike. You wrecked my new bike!” She ran, grabbed her bike, rode it home, and rushed into our house screaming, “Mom, Jon ruined my bike.”
Me? I was ticked! Why didn’t she tell me the brakes didn’t work? And now she is in the house, crying to mom and blaming me. Her bike is fine. Fortunately, I am fine. But now, I am going to get in trouble.
I ran into the house not far behind her. Through all the tears, racket, and screaming, as we blamed each other, my mom calmly listened. She made me apologize to my sister. Then she explained to me the brakes work, but you operate them with your hands instead of your feet. She made my sister apologize to me for not explaining that to me.
My mom taught us that day that blaming others gets you nowhere. Spending our energy and focus on blaming only drains and distracts us from growth and impedes relationships. What if during difficult times, rather than blaming, we ask, “What can I learn or do to help something good come out of this difficulty?”
My sister and I practiced a healthy action; we apologized. I learned how to brake a speed-bike. My sister learned the importance of communication.
During this pandemic I see people making the best of difficult circumstances. My wife is pouring herself into our family and her schoolwork. A friend is working on music projects with his daughter. A neighbor is assembling a slick swing set for his kids. We see more couples and families walking together outside than ever before.
Shoot me an email letting me know what you are doing or learning that is helpful.