Friday, February 5, 2016

The Red Balloon


       Its potential is always there.

       In with hundreds of others, the red balloon waited its turn.  Its neighbors were selected, maybe three or four every minute.  The noise of the world outside was exciting, mysterious, and thrilling.  The opportunity to see what it could hear was more than it could bear.  "Pick me; pick me" it pleaded--if it could talk.  It wanted to explore; it wanted adventure; it wanted everything.

       Little by little its world got less and less crowded.  Others continued to be taken.  There goes a blue one.  There goes two yellow ones.  Its turn must be coming soon.  "Pick me; pick me."  Another blue, then a pink, then another pink.  Waiting, waiting...always waiting.

       Suddenly it was out of the bag.  Everything happening very fast.  Hot.  Light.  Breeze.  Noise, lots of noise.  Something dark and smooth and ...Hey!  What's happening?  It got bigger and bigger and bigger.  In seconds it grew to a hundred times it original size.  Dark thing goes away and it doesn't grow any more.  But something better is happening..."I can fly!"

       With little control--really no control--it flies straight up, but only a few feet.  It wants to go higher but something is keeping it from flying higher.  It feels a tug from below and then another tug.  Now it is moving again, but not up.  Its moving sideways.  Every once in a while it is tugged down hard and then it flies sideways again.  This continues for about an hour.

       The balloon sees trees and people and flowers.  It sees the sun and feels its warmth.  It sees the blue sky with few fluffy white clouds.  It imagines how far the sky expands.  Sometimes the red balloon is relatively still except for slight swaying caused by the breeze.  The balloon continues to view the immensity of the sky.  Its imagination builds on the wonders and adventures that await beyond the bonds of the tugging force below.  It pulls and pulls, trying to break free, trying to go up, trying to explore.

       The red balloon hears a scream and then some crying.  This noise becomes more and more faint as seconds go by.  It notices all sounds becoming less forceful and less distinct.  The tugging has stopped completely.  In fact, to the red balloon's great surprise, it is once again flying up.  Though at the mercy of the wind, the balloon is definitely flying up.  It imagines the great experiences about to be entered into.  Oh, the places it will go!  The journey is just beginning.  The path is unknown.  The balloon is filled with the excitement of every future second.

       And then, the upward journey suddenly slows.  The noise is still minimal, the wind is still pushing; but the tugging has begun once again.  The balloon is now bumping against something.  It moves up a small amount, bumps something, moves to the side a little, bumps something else, more tugging, harder tugging.  The balloon yearns to break free and continue its journey up, but the tugging is more forceful than its ability to go up.  Eventually the balloon is no longing bumping anything.  It is once again swaying in the breeze and (once again) relatively still--certainly not going up.  Why?

       This stillness is different from the last time.  Minutes past.  No sideways movement.  No up.  More minutes; an hour.  Stillness.  Another hour; this is different.  Once again the balloon views the sky and imagines and dreams.  Its getting cooler now.  Its getting darker too.  What happened to the sun?  Where's the light?  More stillness.  Maybe endless stillness?  But now the sky looks different.

       The sky is dark with tiny points of light very far away.  The balloon's desire to explore the sky remains.  What's out there?  I've got to go; I've got to break free.  I've got to start moving up again.  I want to see what there is to see.  The stillness removes all distractions and allows the balloon, once again, to dream of the unknown possibilities; the excitement that awaits the balloon once its journey continues.

       But its journey didn't continue.  Night turned to day and the balloon barely moved all day.  The wind seemed to only tighten the balloon's string to the tree branch.  Day turned to night again and back to day; again and again and again. The balloon's dreams continued, but as time went on it started to wonder if it might be better to be secure to the tree that was firmly planted so close to where its journey began.  A part of the balloon still wanted to explore the vastness of everything while another part appreciated the safeness of staying and not moving.

       More time passed and the strength of the balloon to pull away diminished along with its ability to actually make the decision to stay or to go (if it were ever to be given the chance to make that choice.)  There's still a chance.  It could, possibly, break free.  It might have a chance.  But now it wasn't so sure of its decision.

       Suddenly the balloon feels a lack of tugging.  It's long-awaited opportunity may be near.  It is permitted to make its own choice.  The balloon considers the options that has filled its thoughts since its beginning--and it decides to...


       Each of us has the red balloon's decision to make:  

  • take the risk of venturing into the unknown and open yourself to incredible excitement or amazing failure
  • play it safe; stay close to home--close to the "known".  Avoid the scary unknown and risk missing out on attaining your true potential.

Public Schools and Choice

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