The Lesson of the Red Rain Boots
“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby”
~ Langston Hughes
When my daughters were small, I remember a day when I had taken them out for lunch. While we were inside eating it started to rain. This wasn’t just a pleasant summer afternoon rain shower, but a full-on wash-the-skies-clean kind of torrential rain; the kind that leaves everything soggy for hours afterwards; even the air.
It was still raining (though not quite so hard) by the time we left the restaurant and both of my girls were squealing in delight at the sheer number of puddles in the parking lot. Some of the puddles, I noticed, were as large as small ponds, and probably just as deep.
Pausing to open my umbrella after a warning to both of the girls about keeping their feet dry, I let go of my youngest daughter’s hand for an instant, and a moment later she was knee deep in a puddle, giggling madly and splashing like a duck. With a cry of warning I snatched her out; wrung out her dress as you would a washcloth and, after admonishing both of them (again) to stay out of the puddles because we had a long ride in the car ahead of us, we slowly made our way to the car; navigating around puddles and trying for the dry spots. Or rather I was trying for the dry spots. Both of my daughters were angling for the puddles and my shoulders were starting to get sore from pulling them back.
We were about halfway across the parking lot when I noticed a brightly colored figure headed in our direction. It was a woman; an old woman. With her pure white nimbus of hair and a face lined in a thousand wrinkles, she looked like one of those dried apple head dolls that the pioneers used to make. But it wasn’t her age that caught my attention, nor was it her attire (she was dressed in a bright yellow rain slicker, red rain boots, a purple rain hat). What caught my attention was that she was making a point not to avoid the puddles, but to jump in them.
I stood there – stunned; unable to tear my eyes away, though I could see from the corner of my eye that both of my girls were watching her with absolute awe and rapture.
Finally, when her puddle jumping brought her to within a few feet of where I stood, she realized that there was someone in front of her and paused in her puddle jumping long enough to look up and meet my eye. The stunned expression on my face must have amused her, because she grinned from ear to ear and then threw her head back and laughed like a loon.
“Aw sweetie,” she said to me finally – a grin still in her voice – it’s not as bad as all that. Really, I’ve been waiting all my life to do this! You’ll see. One day you’ll jump in the puddles too.” And then, with another grin for me and a wave for the girls, she had passed us, and life went back to normal. Well, almost normal. I didn’t have the heart to keep the girls out of the puddles after that, and it was a long and soggy trip home.
But even now, years later I can’t get that woman and her bright red rain boots out of my mind, for how far do most of us go to avoid what we perceive as the negative things in our lives?
Honestly, I know that dealing with negative people and negative situations is unpleasant – and something most of us will avoid like the plague if given the chance, but how do we know that those puddles of negativity haven’t been put in our way for a reason? How do we know that we aren’t supposed to go through them instead of around them?
Who knows, those puddles might not even have been put in our way for our own experience. Maybe, just maybe, someone on the other side of the parking lot is watching us; someone who has been avoiding negative situations of their own because they don’t have the courage to face them.
And maybe, just maybe, when they see you splashing through those problems in your red rain boots and laughing like a loon, they’ll find the courage to do something that they’ve never thought possible.