Upbuild Logo
← Home
Humanity By Way of Humility, 2016

Learning From My Mini-Sized Competitor

Hari Prasada Das


I found myself in trampoline-land! I was with my fiancée, Radha Bhakti, taking our little nephews (from her side) to the one-of-a-kind, only existing “Air Riderz”, in Mississauga, Ontario, on the newfangled Canadian holiday of “Family Day”. They “get any party jumpin’…” So they say.

Now, I’m kid enough to jump around with the other kiddies and have myself a blast, but I found myself face-to-face with one tiny guy I, frankly, did not expect to encounter…

I estimate he must have been about 7-years old, of Indian origin, and possessing a killer-cute smile.

As I stood before a wild pit of blue and green foam blocks that amounted to a veritable ocean, my approximately 24-year-junior competitor stood beside me. We glanced at each other from one trampoline to the other. Then at the sea of blocks. Then each other.

At once, he shot up his hand in a John Travolta-reminiscent maneuver of Saturday Night Fever era. BOOM! He leapt off the trampoline theatrically!

I followed suit, minus the Travolta, and landed in the mess of foaminess. I got myself up again to the trampoline with some effort and readied for round two. So did he…

Why did I feel such a strange energy from this stranger who was probably four heads shorter than me? Suddenly, it came to me. This little critter’s showing off!

He saw that I saw him and his crazy jumps. And then I realized something else. He wanted to shine in my eyes… I think much more than outshine me! He just wanted to shine. And I was the only captive audience who gave my attention.

Then I felt endeared and my heart went soft. It takes a moment to realize the subtleties in life and recalibrate.

Here was a pre-pubescent Enneagram Type 3 Achiever after a sliver of glory that I could somehow provide by looking at him. Just then another selfish wave came over me…

Why should I enable him by looking? He shouldn’t be showing off. I don’t want to encourage that.

And I genuinely thought I was doing him a service. So I smiled and let him do his thing without paying much attention to him, ever again.

That was it. Gone from my consciousness. Until, I hit the trampoline basketball court…

There were hoops of various heights and I went for the highest. I jumped and shot the ball, sometimes missing embarrassingly, sometimes getting a swish – without the satisfaction of a net to make the pretty sound.

Every time I was about to shoot, I found myself looking over my right shoulder to where Radha Bhakti was seated on a bench, watching our boys. Hmm… I couldn’t stop that pattern. I just kept looking and hoping she was looking. And then feeling the shame of a terrible miss or the pleasure of an unlikely in. The worst of the worst was when I did something wonderful and she was smiling at our nephews… Hmm…

Okay, Hari Prasada. Something’s cooking here. Does karma really work that fast??

I would dunk the ball on the smallest hoop and look for approval. Then I went to the mid-sized hoop and I failed and failed before I managed to dunk it there! I was amazed at myself! But that wasn’t enough… Yes, I needed to shine too. Ooh that hurt to see! Even me! And I don’t have quite the innocence or excuse of being a 7-year-old!

I made absolutely sure not to speak a word to Radha Bhakti about my rival, who I hoped to teach a valuable lesson to, much less about the lesson I soon realized he was instead teaching me! Oh, the shame…

What’s that Bible passage about first taking the log out of your own eye before attempting to remove the speck from your brother? Yeah… That hit hard.

And I couldn’t be more grateful to my 7-year-old friend who was no rival at all and never was, except in my own silly mind.

I don’t expect myself to not want to shine, but let me at least laugh at myself and be humbled by the silly dependence of my ego on the eyes of another. Let me call myself out and be real, rather than push to get something petty on autopilot. And let me look up to those who are more advanced than me, following in their footsteps.

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with deciding not to enable someone, but always with wise compassion, and an eye toward what may be amiss within me.

What frustrations are we seeing in others and do we have the courage to turn inward before trying to fix up what’s outside of us?

Hari Prasada Das

Read more posts by this author.