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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Shackles of Skipping Ropes

I'm not sure what it is that is making me commit myself to so many events, but lately I've been finding a need to get more involved with the community through charity events and seminars.

For instance, here are just a few of the things that I have gotten involved in over the last few years.

I've participated in the Walk for Miracles for a three year period between 2009 and 2011 to raise money for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (or CHEO as it is affectionately known as). Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in the 2012 edition, as I could not get the time off of work to do so.

I'm going to be taking part in the 2013 Relay for Life event in my hometown beginning June 14 and ending June 15. Let's see...walking around a track for a grand total of 12 hours straight without any sleep? I suppose that I could make it happen.

(Take that, all you gym teachers who kept giving me a C- in class, and telling me that I would never become an athlete!)

I also took part in a bowling tournament for CHEO a few years ago, and despite the fact that I bowled one of the lowest scores out of all, it was a fun experience. Also see the 2012 Bowling Event that I took part in for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

You know, I have to tell you something. Community involvement is quite rewarding. And, you know, I'm almost kicking myself that I waited so long to do my part for events like the Relay for Life, the Walk for Miracles, and other events. I really should have gotten involved in community fundraising events a lot earlier in my life, and I really have no explanation as to why this is. But, I suppose that I am making up for lost time now, and that's all that matters.

Truth be told, I did a little bit of fundraising in elementary school as well. You know those little booklets that you would get every holiday season filled with samples of wrapping paper, as well as brochures for chocolates, ceramic figurines, and other Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa goodies? Lucky for me, I had a lot of relatives who loved stuff like that. And, in turn, those people knew people who loved stuff like that! Of course, there were prizes given out as an incentive for those who raised the most money for the school, so that helped. And, for about five years running, I ranked within the Top 10 for most dollars raised.

(Well, barring that one year in which the teacher forbid me from doing fundraising. But, I've already talked about that story ad nauseum. No need to revisit that chapter today.)

There is, however, one charity event that took place at school that I never took part in.

It was an event that the vast majority of my classmates took part in, but I never did. It was an event in which everyone that took part had a lot of fun, but I couldn't find it in myself to join in the fun. In a surprising twist, for an art project that I did for school in the sixth grade, I actually designed a poster for this charity event which was framed and hung in the student art gallery, and despite all this, I still did not have the heart to sign up for the event!

You see, the event required the people who participated to perform a repetitive motion for several hours, and the money that they raised for doing this activity went towards the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. A noble cause indeed. And, to sweeten the deal, depending on how much money a child raised, they could win a prize pack with items designed to help a child get more physical activity. Again, a noble cause.

So, why did I not join? Simple. I couldn't skip rope to save my life.

The event is known as “Jump Rope For Heart”, and it has been an annual tradition in elementary schools for as long as I can remember. Every year, kids would gather in their school gymnasiums (or playgrounds if the weather was warm enough) and skip, skip, skip with a skipping rope. The more they skipped, the healthier they became.

But, as someone who admittedly lacked coordination and agility in his youth (complicated by the fact that my feet were slightly deformed with my inability to walk flat-footed for the first eleven years of my life), skipping rope was hard. I honestly only remember owning one skipping rope in my entire life, and I didn't even use it for skipping. I even owned one of those Skip-It toys (I requested one for my 9th birthday after seeing the commercial on television and thinking that it looked easier than I thought), and by the end of the summer, it was stuffed in a corner, collecting dust.

I was never really any good at gym class, despite my best efforts. I was a chubby tall kid who simply couldn't move as quickly as the other smaller kids in my class. Oh, sure, I did my very best, but my best simply wasn't good enough. I was almost always the last kid picked for the team, and if we were playing dodgeball, I was almost always the first one knocked out.

(I was tall and chubby. I was an easy target.)

Still, there were some gym classes that were better than others. Whenever they brought out those wooden scooters with the wheels on the bottom, it was a great gym day. Whenever they brought out the broomball nets and equipment, it was a great gym day. And, whenever they brought out the bowling balls and pins, it was a great gym day...

...well, aside from that incident in fourth grade when a kid whipped the ball at my hand and broke my pinky finger.

But when the teacher brought out the bin filled with skipping ropes, I absolutely cringed. I hated skipping.

For one, trying to find a way to get the rope to move at the right speed and frequency so that you could skip continuously was a science. It's actually a theory of physics, but I don't really want to get into which one it is because A) I don't want to bore you, and B) I'm actually worse at understanding physics than I am skipping rope.

Needless to say, I never did quite get that rhythm going exactly the way I wanted it. I couldn't even do one full skip. Either I got tangled up in the rope, or I would trip over the rope and fall on the floor.

It really made me feel a little bit insecure, when I stop and think about it. I was having a lot of problems with the skipping rope, but nobody else did. Everyone else could skip rope without any problems whatsoever. The fact that I couldn't made me feel bad that I could not do an activity that everyone else could.

But don't get me wrong. I did give jump ropes the good old...erm...second grade try. It was just one of the things that I couldn't do. Not everyone is good at everything in the world, and that's something that as an adult, I completely understand. As a kid however, it was something that was really hard to swallow. Every kid strives to be the best at everything they do. Or, at the very least, they want to be in the position where they may not be the best, but are far from being the worst. Nobody wants to be known as the worst anything.

And yet, I was the worst jump roper.

So, you can maybe understand why I was so against signing up for the Jump Rope For Heart event every year while I was in elementary school. I didn't want to sign up for the event only to be the one kid in the whole school who couldn't skip rope. Why would I subject myself to that kind of humiliation?

It actually wasn't until recently that I looked back on the whole thing and realized just how much I cheated myself out of the opportunity.

Okay, so my skipping abilities were in the range between “Rotten” and “Don't Quit Your Day Job”. That still didn't mean that I wasn't welcome to come out and show my support for the event. Sure, I likely couldn't skip as fast as some of the other kids (or at all), but it still didn't mean that I couldn't try. Who knows? Maybe some of the kids would have taken pity on me and attempted to try and teach me the finer art of rope skipping.

Unfortunately for me, those Jump Rope For Heart events were opportunities that were forever lost, and I can't go back in time to fix that.

But I still have the ability to make up for that with future events. And, believe me, the Relay for Life is one such event that will force me to be at my best physical shape. But, you know something? Whether I last the entire twelve hours, or whether I can only make it twelve minutes, at least I know that I will have given it my all for a noble cause. And, I won't have to worry about making a fool out of myself, because I will be doing it alongside other people who have also made a commitment to the cause!

Though, I must make one confession before I end this note off. I'm nearly 32, and I STILL can't use a skipping rope! Good thing the Relay for Life doesn't use skipping ropes!  

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