Lessons on Balance from Ice Skaters

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“Learning balance in our lives is like learning how to ice skate,” I thought as I observed the young and old skaters at the Lloyd Town Center rink in Portland, Oregon.

Some skaters strive to excel, a few hope to just survive. All the skating couples and those content to dance alone seem unaware of their audience seated on wooden benches on the sidelines. I’m unnoticed as I look down from the Food Court above.

My eyes focus on a three-year-old Asian girl skating faster and faster. She falls down and gets up quickly and swirls even faster. Like Tanya Harding who once trained here, she is the embodiment of determination to excel in a personal challenge.

She looks around as if to find a photo-op. She sees her mother approaching, who tells her it’s time to go home. She objects. Balancing personal goals with family life is a challenge she will face throughout her career – whether it is Olympic skating or something else the Lord created her to do.

I see the three-year-old wanna-be ice skating star fast-forwarded to the epitome of motherhood in a young Asian mother. She skates along as her young son clings to her, tentatively moving his feet. She has realized a different dream and yet can’t forget her childhood desire to skate in the spotlight for a cheering crowd. She balances her love for her child with her love for ice skating, melding the two together this afternoon.

Two teenage girls with bare knees and arms jazz dance around each other, striking a pose and then laughing until they fall down. They glance at their watches to see how long they can enjoy this wonderful playground of ice. They are learning to balance their carefree youth with accountability.

In contrast to the light-hearted girls comes this chubby adolescent boy skating with his older brother. Both cling to the side rail with sheer terror in their eyes as they fall repeatedly. Are they just praying to get back to the entrance and find a place to rest, vowing never again? They illustrate the balance of brotherly love and shared misery, where we cling to other sufferers; off balance, but together.

Swinging around the rink come a teenage couple with daring turns and jumps. They sway to get their balance — first alone and then closer together. He shows off a little, coaxing her to skate his way. She skates backwards, facing him and swishes her feet back and forth to find her own rhythm. They skate the dance of flirtation and compromise.

An elderly couple glides past them, content to skate in the rhythm of the perfect balance of a proven relationship.

A middle-aged woman floats with outstretched hands, absorbed in the music from her ear buds. What is she reaching for? Freedom? Peace? A friend joins her and she removes the ear buds. They skate around the rink together, chatting and laughing. She balances her rare solitude with her growing camaraderie with a friend.

The skating lessons begin. We all need for teachers and mentors in learning discipline, new skills and balance.  The young instructors pair up with tiny princesses in tutus, ready to coach and encourage the tots.  The teachers balance their desire to excel with their need to pass on what they love. For now, they sacrifice their training to improve their skills as they build those of their charges, balancing mentoring and personal achievement.

What different values are you challenged to balance in your life?

Copyright 2014, Nancy Ward

Image credit: By Pete Stewart from Perth, Australia (Ice Skater at Millennium Park) 

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About Author

Nancy Ward writes and speaks about Catholicism, her conversion and Christian community at JoyAlive.net,
 7 websites and magazines. She loves to tell her faith story to Catholic groups and help others tell theirs. Her "Sharing YOUR Faith Story, a three-part seminar for evangelization," is available live or DVD. She contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion.

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