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Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Taking baby steps

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

When something is progressing slowly, but steadily, we describe it as “taking baby steps.” Sometimes when we use this term, we are describing something that is moving more slowly than we would like. That’s just human nature. We’re an impatient species. We almost always want whatever we’re working on to progress more quickly – whether it’s social justice or the growth of our business. 

Maybe we wouldn’t be this way, and would be more content, if humans hadn’t invented the concept of time. This doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t have the concept of urgency. Our dog has no concept of time, but she definitely understands urgency; particularly when she needs out to use the bathroom and dances in tight circles by the front door while whining and barking. But I digress. 

I started thinking a lot about the “baby steps” metaphor this past weekend when one of the BLM rally organizers, Charles McCall, described their progress in opening dialogue with counter-protesters as moving forward in “baby steps.” 

It just so happened that McCall picked this metaphor the day after my toddler son turned, let go of a newspaper rack and – arms spread wide for balance – took five wobbly steps from the rack to where I sat in my office chair working on this week’s paper. He’s been taking an unsupported step or two here and there over the last several months, but he usually crawls, shuffles around on his bent knees, or uses some item, like an office chair or push behind toy, for support while he walks. With those supports in hand he will zoom around the house, terrorizing cats and dogs while he laughs out loud and revels in the speed he can achieve. 

I’ve watched him pivot and take a step to get to something he wants, or stand steadily before dropping to his knees. It isn’t that he isn’t able to take those steps. It’s that he lacks the confidence to do much more than take a step or two. Or at least, he did until he wanted to get to me, but didn’t have an easily reachable support to push in front of him. Then, when the situation demanded it of him, he took off and walked. And it was glorious. Never in my life have I felt such a surge of love and pride. 

Afterwards, he went back to crawling and shuffling. He went back to pushing things in front of him. Back to the slow progress. But now we both know that, when he needs to, he can walk. Soon enough he will be doing it all the time, and chasing the dogs and cats around the house without need of a push toy to steady himself. There will still be stumbles and falls. He won’t be running marathons tomorrow. But his baby steps are progressing, as all baby steps do. 

So don’t be discouraged when your progress is faltering and erratic, no matter what it is you’re doing. Remember that baby steps are still progress and, soon enough, you’ll be zooming along too. 

Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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