Aim for the Arrows


I guess you could say that his advice took me out of the gutter.

There they were again. Those ten white pins—staring straight at me. I held the heavy bowling ball in my hands and stared down the lane at them ferociously.

“This time I’m going to get you,” I told them, putting my feet in the usual position. All around I could hear the crash of pins from the other lanes. Everyone in my class had mastered the game of bowling except me.

Step one—push out, step two—swing back, step three—follow through, step four—release! I watched those ten giant pins up ahead, hoping that just one would topple over.

“Too bad,” said one of my classmates as she watched my ball hit the gutter halfway there. I was a mature college student trying to get good grades and I couldn’t even pass bowling!

I turned to see my bowling teacher standing behind me. In the past he had offered a lot of advice after my catastrophes on the lane, but I usually never listened. After all, what is there to know about bowling? I could tell another speech was coming.

“Anita,” he said, “have you read your bowling book?”

“Yeah.”

“And have you listened carefully to all my instructions on how to bowl?”

“Sure, that one-step, two-step stuff.”

“Well,” he added, “I taught a lot more than that.”

“Oh yeah. I learned it all.”

“In every class there is someone who just can’t get the hang of it, and usually it’s because they’re not following one or more of the simplest bowling rules.

“For instance, we teach you to aim for the arrows, not the pins. The pins are much too far away to aim at. If you aim at the arrows, you have a close target and the ball will still make it to the pins.”

“I always aim for the pins,” I said, finally listening to my teacher’s advice. “That’s it!” I snatched my bowling ball and took my position.

“Aim for the second arrow from the right,” I heard my teacher say.

“Aim for the arrow, aim for the arrow,” I kept saying as I did my four-step approach and let the ball slide out of my hands and across the second arrow. The target felt so close, as if I could almost touch it. After I let go, I looked up. To my surprise the ball was going straight, straight, straight—strike! I threw my arms up in the air, and I heard cheering behind.

“Now,” my teacher said, “just keep aiming for the arrows.”

His words, “Just keep aiming for the arrows,” have helped me in more than bowling. Whenever I see an obstacle, staring at me from far away, I know what to do. Instead of aiming for the big goals, I keep them in mind while I make closer goals, and set out a plan so I can realistically achieve them. Those little goals are accomplished “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

Sure, there are frustrations and setbacks, but as I face challenges I can see that I’m getting closer to what I’ve always wanted. In bowling it’s a strike. In life it is so much more.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus