Got Gumption?

by Sally Matheny
Gumption. It can mean practicality, common sense, or downright guts of courage. A recent visit to the roller-skating rink presented several cases of gumption.
It had been two years since our last visit. Not much has changed. Same disco ball. Same glow-in-the-dark, neon-splashed carpet on the walls. 

The new items were the “walkers” for beginning skaters.  Little kids hunched over and gripped the handles. They looked like they were practicing for a future Sr. Citizen Roller Derby!

The person who came up with the idea of the walkers, made with PVC pipe, connectors, and wheels, was wise. Whomever decided there should be an additional charge of two dollars to rent one, was a genius.

One could say they had a lot of gumption. There were two more people at the skating rink that greatly impressed me with their gumption.

Speed Skating

One was a little girl in pigtails about six years old. Her name was "Carrie." She kept falling down about every two minutes—or less. She even had the aid of one of the walkers and yet she still would slip and fall. 

I watched her with fascination. Most kids steadily skate around the rink. Carrie was different. Every time, she would start out pushing the walker, then, very quickly Carrie chose to do one of two things.

Plan A was to become a blur as she “speed skated” as fast as she could. Pigtails flying behind her and then CRASH! She hit the floor, legs sprawling and tangling up with the walker.

If Carrie wasn’t speed-skating and speed-falling, she always fell back to Plan B. 

After taking a few steps with the walker, she would thrust it to the side, trying to skate on her own without its assistance. 
Speed Falling

Once again, Carrie met with the floor in only a matter of seconds. Pain flickered across her face. She never cried out or complained. It looked like a game of "Frogger" as she dodged oncoming skaters on her way back to the walker. Crawling was her only option because she did not know how to stand up without holding onto the walker.

The cute little girl clearly did not know how to skate, but that didn’t stop her. As I watched in amazement at her determination, I heard a woman’s voice behind me.

“Excuse me,” she said. Smiling and shaking her head, she added, “I never thought I’d be out here at my age. It’s been years since I’ve skated.”

“You’re braver than I am,” I said, patting her shoulder as she passed by me.

The woman looked to be in her early sixties.  She was skating beside a little three-year-old girl. The little girl had the walker but if I were Grandma, I would have gotten one too! Grandma was a pretty good skater. She just inched along at a slow speed, taking pictures with her cell phone. She was having fun with her granddaughter.

Now me, I was cheering my son on from the sidelines. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to be out there skating with him but I’ve got neck issues. One bump from a skater or from the hard floor would put me in the bed for days. So, I took photos and cheered from the sidelines.

Several parents were walking beside their kids as they skated. My son, who isn’t too cool for his mom just yet, called for me to come walk beside him.

Just as I walked into the rink, a skinny, little girl fish-hooked my leg and we do-si-doed for awhile before regaining our balance.

Gumption means you get up and try again, and again, and again.
As I made my way to my son, I noticed the Grandma taking more photos with her cell phone. But this time it wasn’t of the little three-year-old. She was taking photos of the pig-tailed speed-skater girl.

I thought the Grandma must be as fascinated with the girl as I am. Then, I noticed how they were talking with one another and smiling at each other. As we drew closer to them, Cara took another spill right in front of me. I offered her a hand and pulled her up.

“You’re doing awesome!” I told her.

“Thanks!” she said with a big grin and skated off again.

I looked over at the Grandma and asked if she knew the little pig-tailed girl.

She nodded and still smiling said, “I never thought I’d be raising four grandchildren, but here I am.”

I conveyed to her how I had been admiring the bravery of her granddaughter.  I told her, "That little girl will go far in life because she never gives up. She just keeps picking herself up and keeps trying."

Before walking away, I added, "I think Carrie has more gumption than anyone else in this skating rink."

The grandmother smiled proudly and nodded as she inched away on her skates.

I only witnessed two hours of Carrie's life today but she captured my heart. I’ll probably never meet her again but I feel certain she's got a great future ahead of her.
Gumption means courage.

She’s learned how to have gumption in the midst of adversity, and she’s learned it from her loving grandmother.

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