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Special Skin

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I didn’t have a dad growing up. My mom and grandma raised me. 

But I did have an uncle. He was like a father to me. His name is Greg Hague. 

Uncle Greg taught me something special about myself. I’d like to share it with you this Christmas week. 

My name is Jason and I was five at the time. Even though it happened long ago, the memory is vivid. 

It was 1981, another bleak, freezing winter in Cincinnati. I was standing in a Kmart gazing at the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was a jet black Huffy “Panther” BMX bicycle.

This baby had chrome spokes, riding pegs, trick handlebars, and “panther claw” grips! My heart pounded at the thought of riding this powerful steed.

But then came the fear — no training wheels. My friend Gatsby had tried riding without them. He took a nasty spill, scraping both knees and bloodying his elbows. His scabs were still tender and ugly.  

You couldn’t buy a Panther with training wheels, so I decided it was too risky; not the bike for me. But I already had the Panther on my Christmas list, so I decided to change it. Maybe ask for something safe like Legos. 

Uncle Greg flew back from Phoenix to spend Christmas with us that year. 

Thinking back, I now know that my mom was really Santa, and privy to my Christmas list. She must have ratted me out to Greg.  

“So, Jason, I hear you want Legos instead of the Panther?” Greg casually said to me one morning at breakfast. 

I couldn’t show fear, not with Uncle Greg. So I replied, “Oh, I already have a bike, but I really need more Legos.” Quick thinking, I thought.

Greg raised an eyebrow, smiled, and said, “Well, I hope Santa comes through with those Legos.” Threw him off. Good job, I told myself.

Christmas morning. The truth? I was bummed. What a coward I was! Gatsby would be zipping around on his two wheeler. I’d still be creeping along with the toddlers on training wheels. 

Then it was time for presents. Yep, there they were. Legos, wrapped in a box. Disgusted with myself for being such a wimp, I trudged up the stairs. Soon, Gatsby would call, wanting to ride. I buried my head in the pillow and started to cry.

Then I heard Greg yell from below, “Jason, come down here, I need help in the barn.” So I slowly walked down the steps, and there in front of the fire angled just so, leaning on its stand, black paint glistening — the Panther.

Dumbfounded, I looked around. Big, beaming smiles everywhere. I broke down. “No!” I screamed, “I’ll crash and rip off my skin. I’ll be covered with blood.”

With tears in my eyes I raced up the stairs. My pillow was still wet from before. I laid down and sobbed so hard my ribs ached.

Then, a knock at the door. It was Uncle Greg. “Can I come in?” he asked.

“I don’t care,” I sniffed.

Uncle Greg sat down next to me on the bed and said, “Jason, it’s time to tell you a family secret. We Hagues have something called special skin. Didn’t you know?” 

“No,” I replied. 

“It’s true,” Greg said. “Our family is special. When we’re injured it only hurts half as bad and heals twice as fast.”

Could this really be true? A family secret? Why hadn’t someone told me? 

Then Greg jumped off the bed with arms waving and summoned: “Jason, get out there and ride. You will probably fall, but you have special skin. It won’t hurt that bad. You’ll get right back up and be riding again.”

Soon Uncle Greg was watching me do figure eights on that Panther. Did I fall? Yes. But it only hurt half as bad.

We aren’t born brave. Courage is learned. Fear kills dreams. Life is about risk. This Christmas make sure your kids (and grandkids) know… they have special skin. So do you.

“Never put a single thought of weakness in the flourishing minds of the children. Fill them up with vigor and compassion, for their character will define the future of the entire human species.”
– Abhijit Naskar

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