90. Hula Hoops of Hope


He couldn’t be more than 4 years old.  It was obvious that he was a bundle of energy, even before we handed him a free ice cream bar at a “Back to School” event sponsored by one of our Community Partner organizations.   He had already tried his hand at our bean bag toss, downed his ice cream bar, and was looking for his next challenge.  He was not interested in the temporary tattoos, coloring books, or the ring toss!   He wanted to show us what he could do with the Hula Hoop!

To say that I was skeptical would be a bit of an understatement.  We had already been onsite for a couple of hours and watched numerous folks of all ages give it a shot.  Most seemed to experience more frustration than fun – they just couldn’t achieve the right mixture of hip action and rhythm to keep the hoop spinning around their waist.  Based on what we had already seen, I had virtually no hope that this little guy could do what was necessary to get that hoop spinning around his waist!  Boy, was I wrong!!

Using a Hula Hoop that was almost as big as he was,  this little dude not only immediately got the hoop spinning, but he kept it going!   He made sure we were watching so we could brag about him when his mom came back to get her own ice cream bar before they moved on to another stop at this “Back to School” event.

It’s a couple of days later now,  and I’m still a bit stunned by what I saw.  This little guy wasn’t intimadated at all by the mysteries of the Hula Hoop.   Though numerous others had tried and failed in their attempts to get the colorful hoop spinning, he never flinched.   He not only had the confidence to give it a shot, but he did it with some pizazz.  It was just a kick to watch him do his thing.  When he was done he put down the Hula Hoop,  gave us a knowing smile, and simply said “I told you I could do it!”.  With that he moved on to the next challenge!!

While I can spin the Hula Hoop on my arms,  and I can throw them forward  and make them roll back to me,   I’ve never been able to master the art of spinning them around my waist, neck, legs or anything else.  I don’t seem to have the right combination of skill and rhythm to achieve the dynamic spin necessary.   As a matter of fact,  I look pretty silly when I try.  It just goes to prove some things are better left as is!!

However, though I can’t spin a Hula Hoop,  I have recently become more aware of how they are a fairly accurate analogy of this thing we call “life”.   Since this “Back to School” event last week I can’t seem to get that analogy out of my head.  I don’t know about you, but I’m always amazed at how God takes these ordinary circumstances in our lives and uses them to teach us some extraordinary life lessons.

If you stop to think about it, our lives are often just like the spin of a Hula Hoop!

Don’t get me wrong…..I’m not saying you’re going to find a set of “Hula Hoop” life lessons in any self-help book,  webinar, or college course.  Hula Hoops certainly aren’t mentioned in the Bible, and Jesus did not give us the Parable of the Hula Hoop”.  But there was something about watching that little guy spin that Hula Hoop that spoke to me on a deeper level than just my own inability to do so. 

Life is certainly cyclical in many ways.  Just like the seasons change every few months, it seems our lives go round-and-round, often repeating experiences we’ve already had before.  Some of those are welcomed occurrences  — holidays,  the start of college football season,  your annual vacation, cost of living raises, etc….  Others are not so pleasant – April 15th ,  paying monthly bills,  getting your flu shot,   unexpected car repairs,  etc…..Life is a series of ups and downs,  round and round it goes,  each day bringing something to deal with, even if we’ve dealt with many of those things at one time or another before.  It’s a never ending cycle of experiences.  Like a Hula Hoop spinning around our waist, there’s always something more coming around the corner.

If you’re a Hula Hooper like me, that also means you know the frustration of restarts.  You might get the hoop spinning for a little while, but then things seem to get out of control and it hits the floor.  In frustration you restart, but the results are often the same.  The need to pick up the hoop and try again is metaphor of life for most of us. We all know the frustration of failure and the need to pick up the pieces and restart.   Whether you lost a job,  endured a broken relationship,  made some personal mistakes, or chose the wrong option,  the only thing you can do at such moments is to pick up the pieces and try again.  Every time that hoop hits the floor we have a choice – “Am I done or will I give it another shot?”   Like the saying goes,  it’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up that ultimately counts. 

The Hula Hoop also talks to me about the need for the right rhythms in my life.  If they get the right rhythm going it seems those good  Hula Hoopers can just keep going on as long as they want.  Obviously that takes some concentration and effort, but the results are clearly visible for all to see.   The rhythms of our lives will often determine what people see in our lives and whether or not we will move forward.  Through conscious effort and focused attention,  we will be able to make choices that will establish positive momentum and smooth the path in front of us.  Good habits keep us in rhythm and allow us to accomplish more.  For me that means keeping my spiritual life in order first and doing what I can to maintain good relationships with others.

 Finally, watching that little guy do the Hula Hoop gave me hope!   He conquered the challenge and was able to reach his goal.  In one way or another we all have Hula Hoop type challenges in our lives.  Many of those things are very difficult  — making ends meet,  overcoming temptation,   dealing with ornery people,  walking through grief,  living with physical limitations,   recovering from life’s setbacks,  etc……Each time we face such a situation we are once again “picking up the Hula Hoop”.   If our experience has taught us anything,  we know we’ve successfully dealt with such challenges in the past when they’ve come around.   We may not fully realize how we’ll get through the challenge facing us today, but with God’s help we have every reason to believe that we will be able to do so.  The spinning of the Hula Hoop is a reminder of the scripture that says “….this too shall pass”  (2 Corinthians 4:1-18). 

Hula Hoops – a simple toy that has brought fun now to a couple of generations…..along with a good deal of frustration.  As I watched my new little friend confidently facing the challenge,  I couldn’t help but smile.  My life has kind of been like that Hula Hoop, constantly moving,  often very challenging,  and always requiring my focused attention and best effort. I haven’t always kept things spinning the way I want, but I keep trying.   And I every confidence that one day I’ll hear God say,“Well done!  Come spend the rest of eternity with the other Hula Hoopers here in Heaven”.  I’m excited…..that may be the first time I’ll ever be able to actually spin a Hula Hoop around my waist!!

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