Lessons from Rainbow Tails


Have you ever had a balloon? A shiny prize that floats in the air and bounces on the end of its string, all weightless and buoyant and free?

That was my daughter’s joy yesterday: a bright orange balloon that she received from a server at Pizza Hut for eating most of her spaghetti lunch. It bounced and floated and played with her all the rest of the day and evening. This morning, however, my girl was in utter despair to find it wilted and lackadaisical on the floor of the kitchen. Then she discovered that, if she ran, the balloon would “fly” again, and so she spent the next fifteen minutes just running in a giant oval around the living room, through the kitchen, and back. Not too long after, she ventured outside onto her grandparents’ carport and made another amazing discovery: if she stood there and held on to her balloon, the wind would lift it up and fly it all around her, much to her delight.

Unfortunately, amazement led to heartbreak as she loosened the bobbing balloon from her wrist, a gust of wind ripped it from her small hand, and blew it down the street before lifting it up into a tree where none could reach. Her balloon, her treasure, her resurrected glory, was gone! My girl came inside in tears, insisting that I put on her shoes so that she could go in search of and rescue her stolen balloon. When I explained that no one could reach it and it was gone, she collapsed into hysterical tears, hiding herself under her img_0754favorite blanket and turning into a sobbing bundle on the floor while I patted her back.

Then, of course, Grandma and Grandpa came to the rescue. Grandpa blew up a brand-new blue balloon, bigger than the one she had lost, and Grandma pulled out her ribbon stash from her craft things to allow my girl her choice of ribbons. She picked four (pink, blue, orange, and yellow) so she “could have a rainbow” attached to her balloon, the most beautiful tail I have ever seen gifted to a balloon.

Have you ever had days like that orange balloon? Those days where you are flying high one day, life is good, and joy abounds. Then, the next day, the world seems to come crashing down around your ears and things sit on you and sap your light and energy and joy. The floor you’ve collapsed onto is cold and hard and sad. Those moments, big or small, can be so very hard, so deeply downcasting, and so incredibly lonely. I’ve been there, I know those feelings, those dark nights.

And then something happens. A word, a touch, a helping hand, time given, your words listened to, your heart heard, your pain seen. It’s like that fresh morning breeze that lifted that poor orange balloon up into the air and set it to flying again. That encouragement can save a heart, kinds words folding into our souls, and helping to peel away the layers we have hidden behind but that have failed to protect us. Those words and actions of love set themselves upon the cracks in us, soothing their pain, and, maybe, even starting their healing process. We are helped up to our feet, given strength or someone else’s to borrow and lean on for that difficult moment. Eventually, we may look back some day and find that something is different. It might be our circumstances, our path in life, or maybe it is us as a person. But something is lighter, brighter, different; and maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself with a brand-new rainbow tail trailing in your wake. Then you know what the fun part is? Rainbows are light, light spreads, and, soon, the world will turn round and you will have the chance to gift someone else with a rainbow tail, too.

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