“Look ma’! No hands”…and learning to take risks

Ahead of me was a balding man driving a motorcycle. He was slowing down as he approached a traffic light. Within 100 feet, or so, of the intersection, he held his arms out wide, a letter t like a kid standing in a windy rain or like the notable scene from the movie Titanic. The gesture that was likely to relieve tension in his arms also expressed freedom and feeling. I wonder if he had performed that move so often that he had lost the feeling of “Look ma!  No hands,” the feelings we all had once we overcame the fear and accepted the risk to take our hands off the handlebars of our bikes: exhilaration, accomplishment, pride, and freedom.

Once we got good enough at the hands-free riding, we could go great distances. I recall seeing friends riding along, playing air guitar or air drums, or sipping on a cold drink, or with arms at their sides. I can’t help but think we enjoyed those rides more than the super-serious riders on bikes with toe clips on the pedals, hunkered over the under-turned handlebars and dozens of gears to choose from. Maybe those other types of cyclists enjoyed the speed and exhilaration of their rides, whereas the hands-free capable riders enjoyed the scenery and moments.

Sometime between training wheels and hands-free riding were short, wobbly rides and the “Look ma! No hands!” moment.  Risk taking, bumps and bruises, and a bandage or two were part of the journey.

As I watched the motorcycle rider, I considered the importance of risk taking, and the multitude of benefits – large and small, physical and emotional – that come from taking a chance. It occurred to me that I cannot remember the last time that I saw a kid riding a bike with no hands while playing air drums or air guitar. It is hard enough to recall seeing a kid riding a bike that was not designed for competition of some sort, much less one simply enjoying the moments of the ride.

Taking risk brings more than great accomplishment; taking risk can bring simple pleasures, quiet enjoyment, subtle confidence…all of which leads to future confidence, enjoyment, and joy.

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