Falling

Evan took a good hit last weekend during a league soccer game. He collided with a bigger kid whose shoulder or elbow got into Evan’s chest. He went down like sack of flour. I stood on the sidelines wondering if the ref would blow her whistle and the coach would trot over to check him out while the other players took a knee and waited. It happens every few games to someone. For 10 year olds, soccer is a full contact sport.

But Evan got back up and in the game almost instantly, rubbing his chest and taking shallow breaths. He was winded but otherwise fine. I asked him about it when we walked back to the car after the game (which they handily won). He said that Coach Steven from three years ago had taught them the importance of getting up quickly and getting right back into the game. The coach famously crept up unexpectedly on the kids and pushed them over during practice to teach them how to fall and roll right back up. Since then, Evan, as a matter or pride, minimizes his downtime after a fall. What an amazing lesson to learn, I thought.

About 16 months ago when we were on Day 3 and 4 of a hike up Kilimanjaro, Aaron caught some sort of a stomach bug. That night he couldn’t eat dinner and crawled into the tent looking green. The next day we go up to 16,000 feet. We started the day by going up the Barranco Wall, which looked very daunting from our camp.

The morning was morose. But after a huge song and dance with lots of clapping and jumping, our support crew perked us up. As we slowly (“pole-pole” in Swahili) clambered up the Barranco Wall it didn’t seem so bad after all. Aaron sat down where he could. The rest of the day’s hike wasn’t bad either. The next morning Aaron looked better. When we started our final ascent at midnight that night Aaron was back in usual form and beat me to the summit by an hour.

Aaron and Evan did the same thing in different time scales. They got knocked down and they got back up – fast. They were on their feet when it mattered. They both showed resilience.

Countries too can be resilient. Neither the most powerful military nor the biggest treasury (well, a treasury that can borrow the most) were able to help us deal with the corona virus. American competence and advanced science and technology, our staples, could have stepped in, but they were hobbled. The leadership, with the explicit mandate of its voting base, smothered the scientific community, and created a lack of trust in the government (precipitated strangely by a president who heads the government), making it difficult for the competent to do their jobs. So we fell like a bag of dicks. Even defendable places like Hawaii look more like Nebraska than New Zealand. To get back up we must recognize that we are down. And we must agree on which way is up. Should we make American even greater again, again? Or should we chart a new course to a future that isn’t some faded sad replica of an old whitewashed patriarchal christian past? It is too bad that we can’t have Coach Steven creep among nations, pushing us down during practice to teach us how to jump back up.

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