Just roll with it

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My family went to the beach for our kids’ spring break. The same little island where my wife has vacationed her entire life, with its roller-skating rink that predates her by another 30 years. The place shows its age: a register that accepts cash only, a stereo with a cassette deck, and no air conditioning. No A/C in eastern North Carolina! Despite the heat and humidity, countless folks have wheeled across the worn floors over the years. Now, my kids can say the same. …

And it turned out that they were not the only first-timers.

He caught my attention when he ducked through the door. He was easily 6 feet, 6 inches tall. Well over 300 pounds. His bushy red beard hung down his barrel chest. His cutoff T-shirt exposed tattoos on his hulking, sunburned arms. The proprietor fitted him with the largest pair of skates I’d ever seen. They were larger than electric cars!

I wondered if he would be a bull in a china shop. Or what if he was actually quite graceful? I tried to picture him executing a tight spin, one massive leg in the air behind him.

But as soon as this giant man had laced up and got to his feet, one skate went south and the other north. He managed to keep from falling by grabbing onto the railing.

“Whoa!” he boomed. “Not as easy as it looks!”

Now, remember I was with my young children who were also first-timers. As much as I hated to pry my eyes away, I had other responsibilities. I was tracking down my kids when the floor shook. You guessed it — Big Man was down like a tree. Timber!

I watched as three smaller men whizzed up to where he lay prostrate on the floor. The two white guys got their hands under his arms while a slender Black man grabbed both his hands. Working together, they managed to pull Big Man back on his skates. By that point, I had rolled close enough to overhear them.

“I just can’t,” Big Man panted. “I ain’t no good.”

“Hey, don’t give up!” the Black man smiled. “How ‘bout I hold your hand?”

The familiar opening to the song “Hotel California” filled the air as they slowly skated away, hand in hand. Those two were about as mismatched a skating pair as you could ever hope to see.

And the sight did give me hope.

Perhaps a reader might expect me to draw a lesson here about judging books by their covers or skaters by the color of their skin. About small towns and things of the past that are still present in holy ways. But no moralizing.

I’ll just leave you with the image of these two men — one Black, one white; one slim and trim, one huge and hairy. They are wobbling cautiously around the curve of an ancient rink to the Eagles’ song, and when they finally come around and skate toward you, you can see how they are both wearing cutoff T-shirts. Picture them also wearing the same bright smile. Sometimes in life, you just roll with what’s happening.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”

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