The Loving Push

Yesterday, while running in Central Park, I noticed a young father helping his son as they both rode bicycles. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched Dad push his boy on the back, ever so gently coaxing him up the hill. It was a steep incline, so the little guy needed multiple shoves in order to reach the top where he was then able to pedal over the crest and down the other side.

The sight brought me back to my own childhood. When I was four years old, my own father took me to the nearby ski resort. As I was too small to ride the chair lift, my dad tied a rope around his waist and single-handedly pulled me up the bunny slope – my very own ski lift. Once I reached the top of the hill, I’d turn around, he’d untie the knot and give a little prod to the skis to get them moving for the ride down. Then he’d walk patiently back down the hill where we’d then repeat the exercise again and again.

When learning to ride a 2-wheeler for the first time, I can remember my older brother Michael holding onto the seat until I was confident enough to fly solo. When I was ready, he nudged me forward and let go while I biked on my own for the first time. There is a photo of that exact moment, and if you look closely you can see his guiding hand launching me (sans training wheels) into the great blue yonder.

Many times in my life, I have received the “loving push” from others who cared for me: my mom leading me into kindergarten with her hand on my shoulder; my sister Maureen, proudly walking behind me on a tour of her office as she introduced me to co-workers on visitors’ day; my brother John, showing me how to swim under water in the backyard pool; Walter, my second eldest sibling, encouraging me as I considered the option to attend a college out of state.

There was always lots of support, and that was just from my immediate family. There were also teachers, friends and other mentors along the way – all of them ready with a helping hand when I needed it.

In a way, this is what I try to do in my coaching practice. Though the setting may be more formalized, the goal is always the same – a loving push to aid others in discovering and affirming their own inner abilities. I am lucky. I feel grateful to have been given a leg up so often over the years that it is a privilege to pass it on whenever the opportunity arises.

I don’t know if that boy in Central Park will remember every detail of the afternoon when I watched his father push him up the hill. Perhaps he wasn’t even aware of the push that got him there? Most of us are not. But we’d miss it if it wasn’t there.

Gratitude Practice: Pay it forward. Select someone who needs a gesture of kindness or something kind that someone once gave to you. With gratitude for what was given to you, reach out and give back. It can be a simple gesture, like sending a card. Or calling someone who is sick and saying you care. Or teaching a child to ride a bike.