Are balloons like people? We visited our local neighborhood restaurant/ bar last night for an early evening cocktail. Hugging the ceiling were balloons—lots of balloons—Red, Gold and Blue, their ribbons trailing down just far enough to grab one, or more, and take it along. I chose one of each color.
At home, we released them in the living room and they immediately floated as high as they could to the ceiling, bumping along until they reached the highest point. Kevin pulled the red one down and secured its ribbon under a candle. It just stayed there, motionless, for the rest of the night, looking almost like a ceramic balloon. This morning, the gold and blue were still hugging the peak of the ceiling and the red was where we’d left it. I wanted to release them all into the sky, so I took the two “free” ones first out into the front yard. Letting their ribbons go, they lifted UP, UP, UP into the chilly morning sky, rapidly gaining altitude, and within seconds were just tiny dots against the scattered white clouds. I asked Kevin to please bring the red one, too, and he did—along with my sunglasses so I could watch them until the last possible second. He held out the ribbon, then let it go and it lifted, but slowly and just a fraction as high as the first two. It reached a certain height and then, just drifted along, going no higher, just moving steadily along on its journey. Immediately, I thought, I wonder if it’s because it was tied down? Restricted for several hours? The others were allowed to reach their highest potential, and had there not been a ceiling to stop them they would have kept going, floating higher and higher until out of sight.
Just like people. Take three people. Give two of them all the freedom and opportunity to take to the skies—no restrictions—and they’ll soar. And the third, add a little weight, tell him or her that she doesn’t have what it takes; add a little doubt, place an ever-so-slight restriction and watch the difference.
As I stood below, squinting into the pale blue New Year’s Day sky, I thought how easily we can hold someone back with just the tiniest of criticism or doubt. On this very first day of this brand new year, I take a deep breath and I imagine lifting higher and higher into the clouds, realizing that anything is possible.