By Shannon Baker
As writers, we often insert situations in our stories that illustrate principles. Of course, we try to be subtle as we layer in symbolism and analogy. But sometimes, real life gives us great stories to serve as life lessons.
I am not a risk-taker by nature. So when I’m afraid to try something new or I’m tempted to settle into the known and secure life, I remember an incident years ago.
My daughter, Erin, was eleven years-old and we were camping at Horseshoe Campground just outside of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills on Labor Day. Summer was dwindling to a close and school had already started so this was our last outing before the rampaging activities of fall at our feed store in Nebraska and school sports geared up.
A large rock guarded the corner of Horseshoe Lake. To my memory it seems like it rose straight up from the water about 50 feet. It was probably much shorter. I can tell you it was one high platform. Local teenagers jumped from the rock into the deep lake. They were having a blast, sailing in and climbing back up.
Erin watched this with interest the first afternoon we camped. On the second day, she decided she wanted to try it. I climbed the rock with her and peered over the ledge as she contemplated the jump. To give her courage, I scurried back down and swam out and treaded water not far from where she’d enter. She stood at the edge trying to get her nerve up and I treaded water until my legs felt weary. In the end, she retreated without jumping.
What she perceived as defeat stayed with her throughout the evening and the next day as we toured the Black Hills. The next morning, as we packed up camp, I caught her gazing longingly across the lake as the big kids once again gathered and threw themselves off the cliff. We finished loading the gear and piled into the pickup. She never took her eyes off the rock as we drove past and headed out of the campground.
We stopped before entering the highway that would take us back to our real lives. Suddenly she shouted, “Wait! I want to jump.”
To the grumbles of the other family members, I insisted we stop, dig for our suits and let her change. We drove back and I once again swam out into the cold lake as she climbed the rock. This time, she only hesitated a second, then hurled herself off the cliff.
She hit the water and sank deep. A second later, her head bobbed up and her face split in a grin of accomplishment. Her pride spilled over and lasted for days. I don’t know, maybe it was a brick in her character growth and helped make her the strong young woman she is today.
What I do know is how it affected me. If she hadn't pushed herself beyond her comfort zone, if she hadn’t wanted to experience the flight and splash, she’d have gone home to the status quo and wouldn't have lost anything.
But by pushing herself, overcoming her fear, she earned not only the experience, she gained confidence to jump higher next time, to live fuller and freer.
When I asked her why she finally decided to try again, she said, “I realized I might not ever have another chance.”
When I’m hesitant to try something new and take a big chance, I try to seize the courage my young daughter taught me that day. I make a decision, put aside the fear and…