Risk capital: Helen Johnson’s Thought for the week

‘Like life, skateboarding isn’t for the timid.’

‘There really is a need to be very brave.’ | Photo: by Gabriel Brito on Unsplash

The building on the corner is recognisably a church. It’s not too fancy, or architecturally distinguished, but a blue plaque tells its story as a place of worship for the soldiers that once barracked on the top of the hill. When a visitor ventures inside, however, things become really interesting. The religious furniture – the rows of pews, the altar, the organ, the pulpit – has gone. So have the hymn books and large Bible. There’s no symbolic art. But what is there is a jaw-dropping surprise.

For, would you believe it (just try to), the place has become (wait for it) a skateboard park. I’ll say that again: a skateboard park. The long hall is full of wooden ramps, each of differing heights and lengths. It’s also full of kids, accompanied by parents or the odd grandparent.

The kids are at the back of the hall. They are in appropriate kit: knee-, elbow-, and wrist-pads, not forgetting helmets. Everybody has a skateboard. Most of these are very colourful and patterned, each making a statement about being young, brave and wanting to have an exciting time.

But, like life, skateboarding isn’t for the timid. Get your balance straight, flip the board over, and jump on the deck. It’s all about poise and hitting the launch ramps just right. There really is a need to be very brave – just looking the part isn’t enough.

The kids climb the stairs at the side of a tall ramp, walk along the top, and then sit with their legs dangling over a very steep drop. One kid makes a courageous decision to go first – to slide down the curve, feet first, and try to keep balanced. Others follow the successful example. Wow!

So, why does this happen? Why do the adults in the room allow it? Risks are being taken, and somebody could get injured. The magic, or at least the special ingredient, would seem to be the teacher who is leading the session. The mixed bunch of accompanying adults, who give off the impression of having been round the block a few times, recognise that he’s a decent chap. He exudes trustworthiness. He certainly gives the impression he knows what he’s doing. More than that, he demonstrates it. He gives off a confidence that the kids respond to, and take on. He behaves with knowledge, kindness and experience. Perhaps these words explain the positive attitude in the room.

There are cultures that do not make open declarations of belief, or rely on them for support. They respond to the acting out of values, in which the behaviour’s intention is regarded as the main point. As always, it comes down to what individuals do, and how. Churches may make concrete statements but it’s behaviour that says it all.

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