The cliché “an oldie but a goodie” conjures up many thoughts about things from our past. From cars made of actual metal that could run into many a pillar at the gas pumps and never leave a dent, to self-rising flour that actually rises, to being able to buy a gumball for a penny, most of us can identify with things from our past that make us smile and remind us of Sunday afternoons in our great grandmother’s kitchen as she prepares food from scratch and not from a box. They definitely don’t make things like they used to.
Most of us, I bet, can remember the smell of swing set hands. Kids these days who play on plastic play sets have no clue what I’m talking about, but us from an older generation can surely recall. You know… after your set sat in the yard for a few years, and you dangled from the cross bar, the paint would rub off onto your hands. A weird white sort of paint that you would try to rub off on your cut off jean shorts. And the plastic swings were cracked and would pinch your rear end when you swung. And the metal slide would burn the back of your legs in the heat of the summer, so you’d hook up the water hose to the top of it and improvise. Or you would throw the swings over the top bar to make them higher off the ground to show you’d graduated from sissy to daredevil. But my favorite was the contest you would have with the neighbor kids over who could swing the highest and them jump out the furthest. You disregarded the entire swing set coming off the ground when you pumped your legs as hard as you could to maximize your launch. We just didn’t think about it.
Seems like when we were kids we were fearless. Never mind the ramps and makeshift jumps we would soar our BMX’s over helmetless. Never mind the crazy games of tackle football with no pads or the romps through the woods with no regard for scary spiders or snakes. Fearless. The undaunted attitude that we were invincible. Faith in the fact that we were always safe from injury or harm. That a kiss from mom or a band aid would make it all better. And that was even before Toy Story or Strawberry Short Cake band aids! It was a fearless faith that enabled us to have some great fun. Nowadays, I shudder at one of those little tiny house spiders in the corner or cringe at the fact that I gotta go out into the woods to cut down some branches. And riding my bike with no hands is a talent I no longer possess. When do things change? When do we lose our fearlessness?
Is it when we learn that spiders can bite or the woods are full of poison ivy? Is it when we learn that insurance doesn’t cover everything, and there’s always going to be a deductible? Knowledge can be powerful, for sure. But sometimes our head gets in the way of our hearts. Sometimes the more we know, the less we walk in that fearless, childlike faith. The more wrinkles in our brain, the less eager we are to run barefoot down the street or mix up all our food into one pile or cut flips on the trampoline. We shut our eyes and hold on tight, hoping our BMX doesn’t hit a rock and send us over the handlebars. Or even sometimes, we park our bikes in the garage and let the tires get flat and rot to the point where we can’t ride anymore. And sometimes we look at that plastic seat on our swing set and think to ourselves that it will never hold our apple pie bellies or twinkie thighs.
I think it is necessary somehow, someway to maintain our childlike fearlessness. Our kid faith. Our lack of inhibitions. Maintain our reckless abandon and simply ride and swing and dangle and run and climb trees and play tag in the dark. To stop rationalizing everything to the point where our learned fears and apprehensions prevent us from living our lives and taking chances. Not that we should be dumb and not pursue knowledge and use that knowledge to make sound decisions. And not that we should be crazy and make silly choices. But instead, that we should disallow our head to get in the way of our hearts and our childlike trust that indeed the swing will hold. Avoid losing our sense of wonder in the protection of His hand and cower at the site of life and the bumps and bruises it may have. Take a risk. Take a chance. Scrape your knees and smell the smell of swing set hands and swing high. Ultimately, “we are stuck on band aid brand ‘cuz band aid’s stuck on us,” and there’s nothing a little antiseptic spray or a kiss from mom or a good scrub with soap won’t fix.