I was watching some skateboard competition on TV not too long ago. It was amazing what those people could do. Watching movies on TV, one also sees amazing feats of daring, such as holding onto a car while it is speeding some 50 or 60 miles an hour down the road. That is definitely not my idea of fun. I remember when skateboards first came out. They were not as fancy as they are now of course, but for all of the kids in my neighborhood... well we just had to have one.
You know how kids are, eight or nine years old, plenty of desire, and absolutely no money. So we went to our dads and asked them if they would get us a skate board. Of course parents are made of some alien substance, that they mysteriously acquire around the time that they become parents. You know, it’s something that hinders them from ever thinking like a kid again. They didn’t see what a great time we could have with a skateboard. Every one of my friend’s parents turned them down on the subject of buying them a skateboard including mine.
We got together and found that there were two reasons which all of our parents gave for not buying us skateboards. First, was that they cost too much (which they did, and that was why we asked our parents to buy them, we would never see that much money). The second reason was that they were too dangerous. You could fall off of them, they weren’t attached to your feet like skates and could mysteriously fly out from under you, there was no steering device, and there were no brakes on them. No skateboards. Besides we had skates didn’t we?
We sat around and pondered what to do. How could we get enough money to buy a skateboard? We decided to pool all of our money and maybe buy one to be shared among us all. After all we were friends, we were in this together. We collected close to a whole dollar. That wasn’t near enough. There had to be another way. So we did, what kids do with that bit of money... we went to the store and bought some cokes and a couple of candy bars to share so that we would have energy to think this thing out. There had to be an answer. We just hadn’t found it yet. But we knew we would. We always found an answer to our problems.
So we thought, and we figured, and finally someone suggested making our own skateboards. We went to the local K-Mart which was within walking distance of where we lived on a fact finding trip, (there was no Wal-Mart then) to more closely examine the fine detail and precision manufacture of their skateboards. After careful examination we went home, took our old metal street skates apart, found a piece of 2 X 4, cut it to approximately 18 inches in length, and nailed the front half of the skate to the front of the board and the back half of the skate to back of the board. We were in business. These were not the modern day boot skates with hard rubber wheels, but rather metal skates and metal wheels with leather straps to hold them on your feet.
Growing up as young boys in my neighborhood, there were no rocket scientists among us, (though Dennis and I did try to make a rocket out of his mother’s new Electrolux Vacuum cleaner). But we were fairly ambitious and found that if we worked together as a team of friends, we could usually overcome the gigantic problems that always seem to face small boys.
These skateboards were rough looking, unpainted, maybe even a little sad looking compared to the bright shiny store models, but they were ours and we thought that they were the greatest. Later we did paint them and doctor their looks according to our individual tastes. In the beginning though, that was not important. To acquire a skateboard was the priority of the day.
After we made our boards we then began to experiment on riding our new creations. Though we never would have admitted it to our moms and dads, we began to suspect that they were right... Skateboards were dangerous! We thought that because we could skate, we could skateboard. We found out that was not the case. Every one of us fell, and felt as if we would never learn. Together we continued to practice, laughing at the antics of one another trying to learn something new, together.
When one would have a degree of success, we all would watch him and learn. There was no rivalry, yet. That came after we all had learned the art of riding a skateboard. But during those first few days, we were a team. None of us knew anything about skateboards, we learned how to make one together, we learned how to ride them together and we were friends and helped each other. It was fun and exciting. We laughed, not at one other, but with one another. None felt threatened of being jeered at by his friends, because we were all in it together. We were all learning together, we were all growing in our knowledge of the exacting science of skateboards together.
As we had roamed our neighborhood’s streets together on our bikes, we now began to do so on our skateboards. It did not take us long to discover that anything much larger than a small grain of sand was death to the rider. We did not have the modern day wide, neoprene wheels. We had narrow, steel wheels. Sudden stops for us were not uncommon. Well, the skateboard would stop, but we would continue pell-mell ahead, running or tumbling as the case might be. We developed eagle eyes for the small, barely noticeable obstacles in our path. On our bikes, we never noticed how much stuff was on the road or the sidewalks. On a skateboard it was different, but we learned. We all had road rash, scraped knees and elbows. None of us had safety gear, and we didn’t even think about that. Building the skateboard and learning how to ride it was all that mattered.
Jesus says in John 15:12-15, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
We were friends and as such we had learned about building and riding our skateboards together. We had overcome all obstacles making them ourselves and learning to ride them. We were happy. We enjoyed the whole arduous task, simply because we were friends learning and doing it together. As I look back at that time, what made it so special then is that we were friends. We still are today. So while this column appears to be about skateboards, it’s not. It’s about friends. We overcame our difficulties together, as friends. Be a friend and love your friends!
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 13 of which have been for the Times.