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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Life Lessons Sixty Years in the Making

Several of my grandchildren received new bikes last week. While watching videos of them learning to ride I was reminded of the day I received my first bicycle.

As I recall, the occasion was my 6th birthday, now over 60 years ago. In talking to my mother who has vivid memories of my father presenting this gift to me, she reminded me of how furious she was with my dad that day. It seems that before he would buy me my own bicycle, he insisted that I prove to him that I knew how to ride a two-wheeler. I’m not sure why this was. Perhaps he didn’t want to run after me, holding me up while I was learning to ride. All I remember though is that I promptly borrowed a friend’s bike and after learning to ride it, proudly swung by our home one Saturday afternoon while my dad was out in the yard waiving to him as I rode by.

A few days later, my father presented me with my first bicycle, a 26 inch Huffy which, as it turned out, was way too large for a boy my size. Since the bike was too big for me, dad mounted wooden blocks on each side of the pedals so my feet could reach them, and he strategically placed a few cinder blocks around our yard which I would stand on so I could get on the bike without falling.

Of course, within the year, I had a growth spurt which resulted in the blocks being a thing of the past as I became a full-fledged cyclist.

As I was reflecting on this experience the other day, it occurred to me that my father instilled two life lessons in me that I’ve carried with me that past 60 years by the way in which he presented me with my first bicycle.

First lesson. If you want something, there’s a better chance you’ll get it if you earn it rather than waiting for someone to give it to you. So, decide what you want and then go after it. Whether a degree, a certification, or a job, if you purse it passionately, the likelihood of your ultimate success is much greater than if you wait for your goals to find their way to you.

Second lesson. Stretch yourself by striving for things that initially may seem too difficult to accomplish. Whether it’s a bike that’s too high for you to get on with pedals that you can barely reach, a course you’re trying to pass, or an instrument you’re trying to learn to play, work at it until you’ve mastered the task. Growth occurs faster when you stretch yourself pursuing accomplishments that that may initially seem insurmountable.

These two life lessons have served me well for more than 60 years. Thanks Dad!

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