Did you ever drop leaves or flowers into a creek when you were a kid so that you could watch them float underneath a bridge? I used to do it all the time, but it’s something I’d neither done nor thought about until just recently.
The other day, my mom and I went for a nature walk along the river. We found bright yellow flowers and we each sent one floating down the river with a wish. I sent mine out straight from the riverbank, but my mom wanted to set hers adrift underneath a bridge so she could watch it come out the other side. That got us talking about the good old days, when flowers and bridges could keep my sister or me entertained for hours, and I thought at the moment that it seemed like a pretty funny thing to create such fascination.
But I thought about it some more and realized that maybe it isn’t so funny after all–in fact, it makes a lot of sense.
If you think about the basic design of a story, there’s always some sort of conflict. The adventure takes a turn for the worst, the villain gets the upper hand, and the hero has to work twice as hard to save the day. Every story is like this–we wouldn’t bother with them if there wasn’t any excitement or suspense.
The fact is, we like to watch our heroes be sent into struggle.
We like shoving them into darkness and chaos, confusion and doubt, fear and uncertainty, danger and conflict. We like to send them under the bridge, where we can’t tell what’s going to happen. We don’t know what’s waiting below, or how strong it is, and it can be doubtful as to whether or not the hero is actually going to make it out alive. We like these moments of darkness because we know that there’s no better feeling than seeing the deserving hero come out the other side.
The hero is our flower. We send the flower under the bridge where we lose sight of it. We don’t know what’s under there, or if the flower can make it out the other side. But we pin our hopes on the little plant. We stand there, looking expectantly at the water, rooting for that flower to make it all the way. We want so desperately for it to succeed, to withstand the daunting challenge we put before it, so that we know our hope and faith aren’t misplaced. We want to know that this precious beacon that we believe in is going to come through for us. We dread the feelings of disappointment and emptiness that come if it doesn’t show up.
The flower is our hero, our hopes and dreams, our desperation to know that there’s something in the world that will come through for us and won’t let us down. So while it seemed silly to me that watching a flower come under a bridge could captivate a child for so long, I realize now that it might actually be a need for a hero that creates the fascination.
Everyone needs a hero. Sometimes you just have to look at the little things to be able to find them.
What wish would you send afloat with a flower?
May your flowers always survive the darkness of the bridge and come through to the other side.