The other night I went bowling with some friends. Halfway through the game, the lights went dim and the strobe lights flashed on. The music was turned up loud and people’s heads started to weave and nod to the beat. As I sat laughing with my friends over our paltry scores, I noticed the family playing in the next isle over. They were teaching their two young kids how to bowl and had the long “bumper” tubes in the gutters in order to keep the ball in the lane.
Looking around at the fantastic group of people that I am privileged to call friends, I thought about how they have done that in my life. They have put up bumpers for me as I learn about different topics. Like learning who to trust and how to do healthy conflict resolution. How to be myself around others and have real and open talks. Learning about cultures other than my own, having a safe place to ask questions, and appreciating one another’s differences. Creating a loving community that has become family. Tres leches cake, kimchi, and fried plantains have become fond memories centered on good times of sharing. For you see, this group, they are my bumper people. They have taught me important life lessons and encouraged me. They have helped to keep me from being pulled into the occasion gutters of life.
Now on the other side, there are also gutter people. I am sure we have all experienced people like that. Gutter people are those that constantly pull you down. When you are around them you notice that your aim is off and you lose sight of your goals. You know, those that continually find themselves in the abyss of drama and pain and the conversation tends to stay on that subject. As the saying goes, misery loves company. I have been around people like that, and in all honesty during some of my worst times I have behaved as a gutter friend.
Bumper people do the opposite. They build up, they do not tear down. They work with you to create healthy boundaries and encourage you to stay on course when your aim starts to drift. They are not afraid to speak the truth and bump you back into place sometimes. Bumper people help you learn how to hit those goals.
I would encourage you, look for those people. Those that inspire you to be more. And look at your own life. Do you do that for others? Do you protect and strive to give wise counsel? Or do you pull down and discourage? Be a safe place for others and look for that in those you surround yourself with. Amid all of the distractions and loud noise it can be a big factor on whether you keep the focus or fall into that gutter.