There is a moment, one of many, that I will never forget of my father giving me positive encouragement. I still remember it so vividly today, because it was instrumental in shaping my outlook on life, and how I treat others, especially children.
That fond childhood memory is of my dad teaching me how to ride a bike. I was around six years old when I received the Christmas gift of my dreams; a purple Schwinn with a banana shaped seat decorated with colorful flowers. The handlebars had pink and purple glittered streamers hanging from them, and there was a white basket on the front. I couldn’t wait to ride it, but Illinois winters are snowy and bitter cold, so I could only look at the bike longingly for months before the weather warmed up enough for my first adventure.
I was so excited when that day came, that I thought I could just hop on it and peddle into the wind. There was only one problem; while I had mastered a tricycle, this bike was a two-wheeler. My short-lived disappointment was solved as I anxiously watched my dad put on the training wheels that would offer the stability I needed to stay upright. However, it was my father’s patience and loving instruction that taught me how to ride with confidence.
For the first few lessons, Dad held the bike and did not leave my side. He never let go as I wobbled and shakily turned the handlebars back and forth trying to get my balance. He encouraged me to keep peddling and to hold steady with every try. Little by little, I got better, to the point that I hadn’t noticed when he let go. I was steering the bike by myself, training wheels still in place, and him running alongside.
The day finally came to take the training wheels off and I was nervous, yet excited. My first try felt just like it did that first day with the training wheels. But what I didn’t know is that I had been riding unassisted for some time. Dad had raised the training wheels up prior to that day, and they hadn’t touched the ground in a while. I was riding without them. Seeing them there and having him by my side merely offered the security I needed to keep going. One last time, he ran with me holding on to the back of my bike as I peddled faster and faster, and then he finally let go, all the while shouting words of encouragement and cheering me on as I truly rode alone for the first time.
Now as an adult, I can only hope that the interactions I have with young people will in some small way help them in building confidence and good self-esteem, and just maybe, leave such a lasting impression that they’ll pay it forward, and share a heartwarming story about it with others.