Richard had worried ever since Dad first mentioned removing the training wheels from his bicycle. He’d hoped the idea had been forgotten, but on Saturday morning he found Dad kneeling beside the bicycle, with his tools spread out on the driveway.
“But Dad,” Richard said, “I like riding with the training wheels. I don’t want you to take them off yet.”
Dad picked up a wrench and loosened the bolts that held the small wheels in place. At the same time, he spoke in his sure, quiet voice. “I think that you should try riding without them. If it doesn’t work out, I can put them back on.”
“I want to wait until my birthday,” Richard said. But in the back of his mind, he knew that he was the oldest kid in the neighborhood—maybe in the whole world—riding a bicycle with training wheels.
The wheels were just off, when Richard’s younger brother, Russell, appeared. “I want to ride Richard’s bike. I can do it, Dad.”
“You have your tricycle,” Dad said. “We’re going to the park. If you want to go with us, get your trike and come along.”
Dad rolled Richard’s bicycle down the sidewalk toward the park. Richard dragged after him, and Russell followed on his tricycle. When they reached the bike path, Russell climbed onto the bicycle seat. Dad gently lifted him off and said, “You’re too little for this bicycle, Russell, and Richard needs to practice riding it. You ride your tricycle.”
Dad helped steady the bicycle while Richard got on. He wished he wasn’t scared, but he was. He pleaded, “Dad, please hang onto me. Don’t let me go all by myself.”
But Dad gave the bike a little push, and Richard wobbled down the path. The bicycle teetered and tottered more and more. Finally, it tipped over.
Dad hurried over to help him up. “Are you hurt?”
“No, but it was really scary, Dad.”
“Let me try, Dad,” Russell begged. “I’m not a bit scared. I can do it.”
“You have your own wheels,” Dad said. “Richard just needs some more practice.”
On his next ride, Richard stayed on longer, and before it was time to go home, he could ride down the path and back without falling over. He felt great!
All the time Russell kept asking, “Why can’t I have a turn, Dad? I can do it.”
Finally, before they headed home, Dad relented. “All right, Russell, get on. I’ll hold you up.”
Russell climbed onto the seat confidently and, before Dad could get a firm grip on the bike, rode off. He flew along the path, his bright hair standing straight up in the breeze.
Richard and Dad looked at each other in amazement.
“Why does it always have to be this way?” Richard moaned. “He does everything better than I do, and he’s just a little kid.”
“He is doing well for a boy who never rode a bicycle before, isn’t he?” Dad admitted.
“Remember when we went to the lake, Dad? Russell could swim better than I could, and he even dared to dive off the rocks.”
“He had a good time,” Dad said. “But you did, too, didn’t you?”
“He caught a lot of fish,” Richard reminded Dad, “and I only caught one. See what I mean?”
Dad put his hand on Richard’s shoulder. “Just remember that no two people are exactly the same. You have your talents. He has his.”
Richard wasn’t sure what Dad meant. He was sure of one thing, though—Russell had stolen his joy in learning to ride without his training wheels. When they got home, Russell told everyone about his first ride on a bicycle. He repeated several times, “And I never even needed training wheels!”
Richard went to his room. He tried to read a book, but the twins were scrapping right outside his door.
“It is not!” Joyce yelled even louder than Judy.
Richard put his book down and went into the hall. “What’s the problem?”
“This is my book bag,” Judy said.
“It is not!” Joyce argued.
Richard examined the bag. “You’re right, Judy,” he said. “It’s yours.” He turned to Joyce. “Remember when Grandmother gave you both book bags? She put a red dot on the bottom of Judy’s. Here it is—see?”
The twins agreed, and Joyce went to find her bag.
It was quiet in the house again. Richard went back to his room, slumped on the edge of his bed, and thought about Russell. He felt downright miserable. There’s nothing worse than being outdone by your little brother every time you turn around.
Dad knocked and came in and sat on the bed next to Richard. “It’s amazing how much smoother things go when you’re around.”
“You’re a natural peacemaker.”
“Yes. I noticed how you settled the twins’ disagreement. That isn’t the first time I’ve seen you figure things out for people who were having trouble getting along.”
Richard suddenly felt good.
“I believe that one of the rarest talents in the world is that of smoothing out problems between people. You’re just amazing, Richard!”
When Dad went away, Richard lay on his bed, grinning at the ceiling. He did have a talent! He repeated the words his dad had said, “You’re a natural peacemaker.”
All the dark feelings he’d had before went away. He felt just fine!