Pedal through the Bumps

My kids wanted to ride their bikes to school this morning, so we headed out at 8 a.m. on the drop-off circuit.  I put Henry in the Baby Bjorn, our new dog Jelly Beans (Beans for short) on his leash, and my travel mug of tea in my right hand, and the Parade of Wells headed down Phillips Avenue.

For the most part, sidewalks in this city are level and smooth, but I think it is up to the homeowner to maintain them, so there are a few sections that are less-than-perfect.  Tree roots and frost have driven the concrete up in sharp angles, and driveways worn down past their gravel cause detours and slow-downs in our commute.  Over and over again, I tell the kids to pedal through the bumps.  Lydia understands better than Elvis, for the most part, and she’s able to buckle down. When adversity comes, she stands up and pedals harder. 

I think I’m a lot like Lydia.  Out on my morning jog, I like when I make the turn from Budd to Katherine Avenue. I like the slight incline, the tangible strain in my calves and thighs, the sense that I am working hard, and when I turn again from Katherine to Mifflin, I can see the crest of the hill and push for it even as sweat starts to drip down the side of my face, because I know after the uphill is a steady slope downward, a chance to breathe, an opportunity to let my legs coast without a whole lot of effort.  There is a reward for battling through the trial.

But if Elvis’s tire hits the crack, he stops, looks up at me with a perfect pout on his face and waits for me to nudge him out of it.  He might sit there all day waiting for someone to give him a shove.  For Elvis, this walk is one he’ll claim was uphill both ways.

You can’t stop on an incline and expect to keep rolling forward.  When you see a slant in the sidewalk ahead, do not slow down.  Do not panic.  Push harder, hang on tight, and pedal through the bumps.  Pedal through the bumps! Elvis seems to get stuck at every one of these cracks.  On the bike and off, he needs a push to get through.  At lunch today it took all of the coaxing, threatening, and encouraging I could muster to get him through half a ham and cheese sandwich before rest time. 

Sometimes he’s lazy and just doesn’t want to try harder.  But sometimes, he’s just plain tired, and the effort to chew seems too much because he’s struggling to keep his eyelids from falling down.  And so sometimes I’m like Elvis.  Sometimes I hit my limit, and it just isn’t possible for me to pedal through the bumps.  Sometimes, I need a good shove from a friend, my husband, my pastor, my parents, my family, my God.

The beauty of our walk is that it just might be uphill both ways, but that means it is also downhill both ways.  There’s a climb, a struggle, a challenge, a strain, but there’s also a chance to coast, to catch your breath, to appreciate the crisp fall air on your face.  Sometimes this walk feels more like uphill all the way, and every struggle stops you in your tracks. And then someone with a little more strength comes along to give you a push over the bump, and that someone will be there again at the next bump, and the next bump, and the next bump.

Yes, persevere through the trials.  And yes, ask for help when the trials seem like too much.  One way or the other, you can get beyond the cracks in the sidewalk.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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