Headwinds and Tailwinds

I have always loved bicycles.  The first time I got on a tricycle I experienced extreme joy.   As a toddler pedaling as fast as I could away from my parents, I intuitively learned the concepts “ecstasy” and “freedom”, even though I couldn’t pronounce either word.

As I have aged, I have moved to an electric bike.  I can bike great distances, up high inclines at a fast pace.  I experience great joy passing a superb rider on my e-bike as he/she toils away in their lycra up the steep hill to our home. Right now, I can’t bike at all because of my foot surgery.  I hope to find myself back on my e-bike this spring.

One of the things I like most about biking is the freedom to experience the outdoor world; the sounds, the smells, the wind.  Bikers are familiar with headwinds and tailwinds.  When you have a headwind, the effort is much harder.  The wind is entirely outside you control.  You just have to lean in and put more pedal to metal.  Tailwinds, of course, make your bike ride a breeze, causing you to speed ahead with little effort.

All of us face both metaphorical head and tail winds in our lives.  Interestingly, research shows that people viewing the lives of others tend to focus on the tailwinds the other person has experienced.   While living our lives, we tend to focus on the headwinds.  We get up in the morning and prepare to battle whatever outside forces may impede our way.

We seldom rise and give gratitude for our tailwinds.  We take our life experiences that have given us our current status for granted.  All of us living in America, start farther ahead  than many third world nations. For example, we expect to have clean drinking water.  We debate public education but we expect that free public education be provided. We complain about taxes but we want roads to drive on and our trash hauled away.  Just by being born in America, we have been given a huge tailwind compared to most of the world.

I think too frequently as a nation we forget our tailwinds and focus on our headwinds.  America has lot’s of problems; homelessness, food shortages, racism, aging infra-structure, climate change, limited access to health care for some populations.  The list of headwinds goes on and on.  But because we have such strong tailwinds, we have the ability if we choose to press back and solve these problems.  The real issue is, who is willing? Pushing into headwinds, takes strength and endurance and (as geese know) a group effort.  Our problems are solvable if we choose to lean in.

When I was a little kid, I loved to ride my tricycle down the driveway at my grandmother’s with my feet up in the air.  The joy of the tailwind is hard to describe.  But I knew that ride down meant I had to drag the trike back up the hill.  Have we forgotten, that the joy of living in a Democracy requires that we have to put in the work to keep it whole?

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