Guide My Feet: A Hurdle Parable

When we were invited to write a MennoExpressions article on the hurdles one might encounter when “running the race,” both of us immediately thought of a hurdle incident that happened several years ago – okay, let’s be honest, it was actually several decades ago by now. We were walking on the Purdue campus when we came upon a hurdle that ended up sending one of us to the Purdue Student Hospital with a broken elbow. In reflecting on this hurdle encounter, we discovered that it actually reveals a lot about life hurdles in general.

First the short version of our “hurdle parable:” On our walk, we came across a parking lot that was cordoned off by a chain strung between metal posts. Beth wanted to use the parking lot as a short cut and suggested that we simply jump over the chain, treating it as a hurdle. In spite of Andrea’s cautions and protestations, Beth proceeded to demonstrate her “hurdling technique” to show Andrea how easy it would be to do. Then, splat! There was Beth lying on the ground (albeit on the other side of the chain) with her elbow bent in a rather peculiar way.

Now, the lessons learned from this literal hurdle (or shall we say “hurt-le”?) for facing other obstacles we may find blocking our path:

  1. Recognize that jumping over the hurdle may not be the only or best way forward. Crawl under it, walk around it, slowly climb over it, kick over the hurdle — there may be alternative (and safer) ways to move forward.
  2. Realistically assess hurdle-jumping capabilities and resources, but don’t underestimate your untapped potential.
  3. Deliberately build your hurdle-jumping skills.
  4. Make sure it is your hurdle to jump over.
  5. Remember that you don’t have to go it alone – ask for advice and seek out additional support.
  6. Actually listen to (and heed) the advice of others.
  7. Realize that not everything that looks like a hurdle really is a hurdle. You might discover that you can take a hurdle apart – maybe even make it into a ladder that you could use to get over the barrier.
  8. Give yourself a second chance moment to think before you jump. This is wise advice in decision making in general. 
  9. (and ¾). Embrace the moment you commit to jump. Sometimes you just have to have enough faith – like Harry Potter – to run at the brick wall and trust that it will not be a hurdle but a portal that will get you where you need to go.

Yet, know that sometimes you might still end up in the emergency room with a broken elbow.

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About the author

Beth Goering and Andrea Krause

Beth and Andrea, who live in both Indianapolis and Paderborn, Germany, are experienced puddle jumpers—hurdling regularly across the Atlantic. They enjoy writing together, both in their professional and personal lives. They have co-authored several journal articles, including some in the area of “Harry Potter Studies,” which is why our list of lessons learned from our hurdle encounter ends at 9¾.

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