Recently, I decided to post an old article I had written for my college newspaper in 2009 called Feed the Birds. In this post, I dusted off a piece of writing from my past in hopes that it could speak again these six years later with new strength and relevance. The response and feedback I received was overwhelmingly encouraging, enough so to prompt me to resurrect another one and bid it walk among us. So, thank you for sharing my blog and letting me know that you have been inspired, encouraged, or rejuvenated by the words I write and those I have written long ago.
Yesterday, I saw someone trip on the front lawn. Of course, when it happened I kept my face forward to help maintain the illusion that no one saw it, but I certainly did. I was walking toward my eight o’clock class, and I happened to look over by the bell tower where I saw it all happen.
He was keeping a quick pace as he shuffled through some papers, hurriedly preparing for class in AV Wood [a building on campus], when his left foot snagged an uneven part of the hill. The rest of the fall was classic in form – he stumbled a few steps, juggling his books and papers, and threw out his arm to brace himself against the ground.
This whole scene stayed with me throughout the day, making me wonder just what it means to fall down. For many of us, falling down carries a certain negative connotation, eliciting thoughts of pain and embarrassment. We consider tripping in public to be absolutely humiliating while ignoring a rather important fact: everyone has done it. Everyone falls down; everyone makes mistakes.
As is true for many things in life, there lies a certain beauty in this because without falling down, there is no getting back up again. As Dickens claims, without the pain of parting, we could not experience the joy of meeting again. Somehow falling down is necessary to human life simply for the moment of standing back up. We see this most honestly in the form of trial and error, the unforgettable hand-on-a-hot-stove experiences. In essence, that is a large part of what makes us human. We do not rely simply on atavistic instincts to govern where we step next; rather, we carry a pair of balances at our side like a slingshot, constantly ready to decide, choose, and take action. Constantly ready to succeed or fail.
Since we are a fallen people, our decisions can never flaunt a perfect track record; failures and mistakes are imprinted into our very blood. However, this flaw must not lead us down a road of despair and apathy. Our mistakes allow us the chance to grow; they provide us something to look back to and, subsequently, something to learn from. Even in falling down, there is forward motion. There is still progress in the process.
Luckily, it is by falling down that we most honestly learn how to get back up, to keep moving, and to renew our focus. Generally after someone trips, he walks a bit clearer, much more keenly aware of his surroundings and his gait. He takes his steps with more purpose and carries his things a bit more securely. Our lives are no different. With each mistake we make, with each bumbling, embarrassing plummet, we are provided the chance to pull back up and continue to move forward. We are given the gift of resilience, the chance to pick back up, brush off the dust, and press on, even if it is just to make it to class on time.