In the midst of our frenetic holiday weekend, after the Walk for Wishes and before the horse racing, we got to hang out and watch a baseball game. Not only was it Make-A-Wish night for those of us who had been walking, but it was also (thanks to two previous rained-out evenings) Star Wars night. The ballpark was simply packed brimfull of weirdos. It was awesome. Over to your left you have the incredible duo of Batman and Wonder Woman, true heroes who spend all of their non-crime-fighting time fighting things like autism, and then on your right you have Stormtroopers marching around with Champ, the giant green felt lake monster mascot. That does not even begin to include the human hot dog, the giant catamount, and the enormously-headed car mechanic.
It was not easy to concentrate with all of this awesomeness running around, so I took the kids over to the play area where they had a couple of bouncy houses set up. Sadly there were no grown-ups allowed in the bouncy houses, so I was relegated to the sidelines as my kids flew repeatedly into the rubbery air. It was fun watching them play, but it was also interesting to watch the other kids. One duo really got me thinking.
I first noticed the two boys because one of them was shouting at volumes of increasing magnitude in an attempt to get the other one to respond. “Hey!” he shouted. “HEY!” he shouted. “HEEEEEYYYYYYY!!!!” he shouted. And finally his friend, who was at that moment sprawled out on the floor of the structure getting bounced about by the other children, looked up and responded with a “what?”
“Hey! Do you think I can make it?” he asked his prone friend.
“What?” his friend asked again without much interest.
“Do you think I can make it from here?”
“Make what? From where?”
“Can I make it to the wall if I jump from here?!” The first boy was very excited about trying to jump halfway across the house in one bounce. “Do you think I can make it? Can I make it?”
The second boy raised his head a little from the rubbery floor as if to appear to survey the situation briefly, although it didn’t look like he really saw much. “Yeah, sure,” he replied, going back to his semi-nap.
This was the wrong answer. The first boy looked suddenly concerned. He backed up another step. And then another. “Can I make it now?!” he asked fervently.
“Yes! You can make it!” said the second boy, a little annoyed that the conversation was still going on.
“How about NOW?!” asked the daredevil, taking two huge steps back. He looked both exhilarated and terrified.
Now the second boy was paying attention. He sat up and looked at his friend. He almost laughed. “Uh, no. You cannot make it.”
This was the signal the first boy had been waiting for. Finally, a chance to prove those doubters wrong about him! Nobody thought he could jump three quarters of the way across the bouncy house in one single leap! He bent his knees; he reared back; he prepared himself mentally. After making sure his friend was looking, he took his bounce, flew into the air, and then landed on his face about halfway to his goal. His friend got up, chuckled, and wandered off to another part of the bouncy house. The jumper also got up, disappointed, and began his preparations to try again.
There are many lessons to be learned from this interaction. Clearly the second boy had a better understanding of the first boys abilities than the first boy had himself. I could write a post about that. The first boy was so worried about what other people thought that he bit off more than he could chew to try to make an impression. And he made an impression all right, with his face, on the latex floor. A perfect blog post topic! But no, the thing that stuck in my mind was how the whole interaction had started. The first boy had asked a question with an answer already in mind, and when he didn’t get the answer he was looking for he kept working until he got it. And I think his friend was trying to be supportive at first! He told his friend yes! Of course you can do it! His buddy was maybe looking for assurance, and he would provide it by rote, like a good friend. But his buddy was not looking for assurance; he was looking to exceed expectations.
I wonder how many questions I ask, already knowing what I want the answers to be ahead of time. I wonder how many questions I ask, ready to make sure that the answers I get are the ones I wanted, no matter what. I could probably answer both of those questions myself right now if I wanted to, but I’m not sure I’d get the answers I am hoping for.