Follow the Leader

Recently my friend, Emi, related the following story about what she observed as two of her children learned to play ice hockey.

Emi shared, “When my two boys, Isaac and Gabe, were little grade-schoolers they decided they wanted to try playing ice hockey. Two of their neighbor friends had recently begun lessons; and the four of them would spend their afternoons on the driveway playing street hockey. Even though Jared and I knew nothing about ice hockey, we could clearly see the boys enthusiasm to try something new, and figured hockey provided some great exercise. Plus, there was an ice rink only 10 minutes from our home.

‘The program at the rink required that beginners take ice skating lessons before they start hockey lessons. Then they take a series of hockey lessons before they can play in the hockey league. Altogether, the process takes about a year before they are placed on a team. Isaac was older and generally more coordinated when it came to athletics, so he progressed through the program quickly. Gabe, on the other hand, was only 5 years old, and often looked like the “darling little engine that could” according to my neighbor, trying in all earnestness to keep up with everyone around him. On the last day of hockey lessons, the students in the class were scheduled to play a scrimmage against each other…their first “real” hockey game.

Gabe, 5 years old

“As the time for the boys to get ready for the hockey scrimmage approached, Gabe became increasingly agitated and grumpy, and began making excuses for why he couldn’t go to hockey that day. This was very unusual, because normally Gabe looked forward to his lessons. I could tell something was wrong, and after some coaxing, learned that Gabe was really nervous about playing in the scrimmage. He said, “Mom, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do.” It took me a good 45 minutes to calm him down, reassuring him that it was all just for fun. “Just go out there, have fun, and do your best,” I told him.

“As the boys warmed up on the ice, I could see that Gabe was very tentative and unsure. The instructors divided up the boys onto teams and sent them to their respective benches. Thankfully, Isaac and Gabe were placed on the same team and were even lined up to be on the same shift.

“Within the first moments that they entered the ice, I could see what was unfolding. Isaac lined up to take the face-off and Gabe stood in position right behind him. As soon as the puck dropped, Isaac advanced forward to take it. Gabe followed right behind. Then Isaac cut to the left…Gabe cut to the left. Isaac passed the puck and rounded to the right….Gabe rounded to the right. So went the five minutes or so of their shift – Isaac playing hockey with Gabe tagging along like a caboose. In all his insecurities about playing his first scrimmage, Gabe decided to simply follow his older brother around the ice finding safety in following his brother’s lead.

Gabe & Isaac

“I could see Gabe’s confidence growing just a smidge as the game progressed. In the last minute of so of the game, by a stroke of sheer luck, (or maybe because of the prayers being said by his over-anxious helicopter mom on the sidelines) the puck somehow landed right onto the end of Gabe’s stick. Panic-stricken, Gabe looked over at Isaac who gave him the “what are you doing…go!” look and set off down the ice gingerly with a puck precariously balanced on the tip of his stick. As he approached the net, he gave the puck a good shove and it slowly inched its way past the goalie (who was one of the instructors) and scored a goal!

“Looking back on the whole experience, I have to admit that Gabe’s strategy was actually not that bad. When you’re in a position where you feel completely insecure and unsure of what you are supposed to do, you first find someone you trust and respect. Then you follow his or her every move for a while until you gain valuable experience, learn from it, and feel more sure of yourself. Perhaps either by luck or more likely some divine intervention, you might even find yourself scoring a goal.

“Do we ever find ourselves skating on borrowed light when it comes to our own testimonies? I believe all of us go through some form of progression through stages of following others’ leads as our testimonies grow and develop. Every day we gain valuable spiritual and life experience that reinforce lessons of various principles of the Gospel. We had good parents, primary teachers, youth leaders, bishops, older siblings, and other role models that we could emulate and follow. But eventually, we all have an obligation to learn for ourselves that the Gospel is true.”

Come Follow Me, by Jorge Cocco 

I love Emi’s precious story about her hockey boys, and the beautiful lessons learned from her reflections. The advice to follow those we trust as we navigate our course through life is wise. As we follow, we can progress in faith, and learn what is true. My heart turns to the Savior, who invites us,” Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me.” May we be blessed as we follow the ultimate example, for He is the way.

In faith,