My First Skate Park Experience. It's not what you think.

Yesterday I went for a long run and on my way home I passed by a skate park. Settled in the middle of a large apartment complex near the downtown train station, this skate park is probably a refuge of sorts for the kids in the neighborhood. I've passed it before but never really paid much attention to it.

It's pretty cool, actually, to see that local taxpayers dollars are going to keep up the park and make a safe haven in a rather unconventional space. There are ramps and stairs and slides and more. The kids turn tricks, fly fast and do jumps here and there. Some of the kids even have boards that have multi-colored wheels. And the designs on the boards are pretty awesome, too. Some have shapes but others are pictures of people and one even has a girl on it. 

I know all this because I stopped to watch for a minute and someone told me all about it. I stopped to watch because there was a little guy standing right outside the entry way, clasping the chain link fence, pushing his tiny face closer to all the action, but not at all jumping in. He was maybe 8 or 9 years old. He couldn't skate; his body would not let him. His little body was supported by a medical device and his shoes covered braces that helped him walk. He just stood there in awe of this big group of boys with bodies that let them participate in ways he only dreamed. But he was not merely standing and holding on for dear life; he was swaying his body and mocking jumps. He was an important participant in this moment in time. He wasn't a lurker; he was an active contributor in this social ecosystem...and it was pretty cool to see. I was drawn to how excited he was to be in the presence of these skaters and I felt his hope and joy each time one would try a trick. I probably would not have stopped if it weren't for this guy. His smile was magnetic and his enthusiasm was catching. He drew me in and before I knew it, I was part of the scene. My very first skate park experience.

When I approached him, he smiled at me and immediately began chatting it up; telling me how cool these kids were, how awesome they were, and what great skaters they were. I sensed the skater boys knew they were being idolized and they seemed to respect something very true and good about this tiny fan. They seemed to come together and each of their moves seemed to compliment the next. There was no competition or angst. I even witnessed a few 'atta-boy's and a few high-fives and even more than one smile aimed at the little dude who would not skate today. I liked what I saw because I sensed an inclusive community due to one thing; the love of skating and the freedom to do so. 

I talked briefly with this little brave boy and then we parted ways. But I've been thinking about him since. There are two lessons I learned from this passing experience that I want to capture this lazy Saturday morning. One lesson is to be thankful for whatever it is that we have; able bodies, clever minds, braces to hold our spines straight or curiosity that drives us to wonder in spite of it all. Whatever it is; it's something. The other lesson? For me, it's to participate. Half the battle may indeed be showing up. But more important, is how we participate in the environment we exist. Existing is great, don't get me wrong, but thriving is better. 

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