Yes, I Fell Up The Stairs. What’s the Message in That?

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Okay, kids! It is time to play “There’s a Message in There Somewhere.” Yes, it happens to be the title of my book, but it is also something I have done occasionally on this blog over the years.

The premise: I tell you a story, and you try and find a message, or a moral to the story. Coincidentally, this experience happened about 30 minutes before I taught a class last Friday at the LDS Storymakers Conference on that exact subject. Coincidence?

Here’s the story:

There is a large staircase at the Utah Valley Convention Center that takes you from the first floor to the second. It consists of two flights of marble steps. (That is the actual staircase in the photo.) Sure, I could have taken the escalator, but I figured that taking the steps would be good for me.

I had my backpack slung across my left shoulder, and a 44oz soda in my right hand. I executed the first flight flawlessly, but after I rounded the corner and was halfway up the second flight, things got a little messy.

Somehow my right toe caught the lip of one of the steps and caused me to lurch forward. I took another clumsy step forward in a feeble attempt to catch my balance – to no avail. I was going down, but falling up.

It felt like I was falling in slow motion. I distinctly remember rotating my body so that my backpack (Which contained my laptop) would not hit the hard stairs. I also brought my hand up and took the brunt of the fall on my right shoulder.

I lay there for a minute taking inventory. I was relieved:

My body? Elbow and shin dinged up a bit.

Backpack and laptop? Safe.

Soda? Intact and unspilled.  It was a miracle. Somehow I had managed to keep the cup upright, which is a good thing, because it could have been a mess of multiple flights.

My Pride? After taking inventory, I realized that I must look like the biggest dope on the planet, sprawled across several steps, holding a soda in my hand as if it were the Holy Grail. I looked around to see if anyone saw. To my astonishment, nobody did. Hah!

This begs the question: If Brad calls on a staircase, and nobody is around to see it, did it really happen?

Sure, I could have kept quiet about this embarrassing event, but I thought it might make good fodder for the class I was teaching. So I told them about it. Within mere seconds, some knucklehead* in the class posted it on Facebook, and here we are.

I’m sure that as you read about my fall, your first thought was, “I am so glad that he is okay!” I appreciate that, but now it is time to dig a little deeper.

Using this story, see if you can find a meaning, or a moral that could be used to teach a gospel message. That way, my fall will not have been in vain.

*Please post your ideas here in the blog, and not on the Facebook links. (I’ll delete them there, as to not spoil it for others.)

What have you got?

*

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41 COMMENTS

  1. I would say..that even when we are on a path that leads upwards..we can still stumble.But if we remain in a forward direction,then we can pick ourselves up and continue on the path we are on.

    How’s that? :0)

  2. Oh, sure. You can call me a knucklehead, but according to the instructions here, I’m supposed to be nice in my comments? Fine. My gospel takeaway is Matthew 5:44.

    • For those few readers who do not have the entire Bible memorized, here is the scripture that Stephanie failed to include: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

      It is appropriate. I need to be reminded to love her.

  3. You can be making good choices (taking the stairs) and headed in the right direction (up) to be exactly where you need to be (teaching the class) and still have life throw some adversity in your path (like an extra stair that comes out of nowhere). The beautiful thing about adversity (if there is such a thing) when you’re making good choices is that you have access to help and protection (laptop not smashed, bones not broken, drink not spilled). Apply to preparing for mission, temple, or any other ‘on the right’ path time of life as needed. The other lesson that jumps out at me? Isn’t there a disclaimer somewhere when you are teaching at Storymakers – anything you say, can and will be used…in a court of social media?

  4. I’m thinking…. The soda and the laptop appeared to be of equal value to you, hence their safety. There must be a moral in that alone. 🙂

  5. This is SO my life right now. Just when you think you have it all under control, something happens (whether it’s your doing or not) that knocks you on your keister. You need to quickly take inventory and protect the things most important to you. What do you choose? What do you guard like it’s “your” holy grail? For me, it’s my relationship with Heavenly Father, my testimony, and my family. (But if I had a Diet Coke, it would be right up there, I’m sure.)

  6. The thing that first came to my mind was the difference between stepping stones and stumbling blocks, which all too often can be the same thing depending on what we do with them. These can include such things as counsel from priesthood leaders, trials and adversity in our lives, technology, media (including social media), etc.

    And with just a quick search on lds.org I came across this amazing devotional address by Steven E. Snow that goes along perfectly with this idea

    https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/steven-e-snow_stepping-stones-and-stumbling-blocks/

    As far as falling up the stairs, it just goes to show that something that should have brought you to your intended destination with just a minimal amount of effort turned into something a lot more traumatic due to just a moment’s inattention and/or carelessness. A literal stepping stone became a stumbling block (thankfully with only minor consequences that were quickly corrected-but it could have been much worse).

  7. Doing what is good for us (like taking the stairs over the escalator) isn’t always easy, but is always rewarding (you had fresh material for the class you were about to teach, a greater appreciation for your body’s ability to move, recognition of small miracles like no spilled soda, and gratitude for no audience to your lack of grace, as well as a reminder to be humble because even when you easily conquered the first flight of stairs you were not as successful on the second. Wait – and maybe a lesson not to judge others because we don’t always see what they are going through in their life, like no one else saw your struggle on the stairs).

  8. It takes a stumble and a fall to recognize what out true priorities are. You took the brunt of the fall on your body, but your laptop and drink (which are expensive, but replaceable) were treasured and kept out of harm’s way. The good news is that your pride was considered last, whereas for some people it would be their first thought after a fall. Who saw me and how embarrassed should I be?

    I once stumbled off a curb while holding my newborn baby. I ended up flat on my back in the street while instinctually holding my baby up in the air with both arms. I didn’t have time to think, I just reacted to preserve what was most important to me. It was then that I realized I was going to be a pretty good mother.

    So what do your instincts to preserve say about what you value?

    • Always be walking UP the stairs. You wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if you’d been going downstairs. Of course it’s not always possible with REAL stairs, but with our eternal “stairs,” falls are less problematic when we’re walking up 🙂

  9. Holly probably beat us all to the best moral, but here goes for something different: Even though Heavenly Father allows us to stumble and/or experience trials, He is still mindful of us and blesses us as much as He can. Sometimes in His mercy that means He will shield us from experiencing all the harsh consequences that we would have otherwise. Even when that is not the case, I have found that He is there helping in other ways.

  10. Its interesting to note the order of things you worried about and focused on when you fell. As they say, what we think about when we’re alone can tell us allot about ourselves. Following your display of stairway grace (which I would assert you actually succeeded at- no major injuries, computer fine, Big Gulp still contained, stairs we’re damaged), your first thoughts appear to have been to inventory your “stuff” to make sure it was ok. Second, you looked around to see if anyone had seen your flop- meaning you worried about what others might think of you and your fall. Note: it would be interesting at this juncture to contemplate how your next thoughts or actions would have been impacted by an audience. Here we find parallels to the folks holding onto the iron rod who decided to let go when the audience started pointing at them from the great and spacious building. Third, you waxed philosophical about being a doofus. And fourth, you starting to think of ways to turn your story into a teaching moment for others. Nephi experienced a similar “falling up” moment (sans Big Gulp and computer) which is recorded in 2 Nephi when he laments his natural man tendencies (4:17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.)

    My 2 cents worth! (and by the way I’ve “fallen up” the stairs before too…probably not as gracefully as you did). 🙂

  11. We can be on the path, doing our best to get to a righteous goal, well-prepared for the future, when most unexpectedly our progress is thwarted. We can be roughly jolted out of our planned direction, by an unintended mistake when our attention lagged for a nano-second. We cannot undo the mistake, but what we choose to do about the result will determine whether we continue on our path to our goal, or whether our progress is delayed or even halted altogether.

  12. There are plenty of days when things go our way. We cruise up a flight of stairs with ease and, in our arrogance, believe that we’ve got it all together. These are the times it’s easiest to forget God. When there’s no clear need in sight.

    President Joseph F. Smith said, “I believe that one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty today is the sin of ingratitude, the want of acknowledgement, on their part, of God and his right to govern and control. We see a man raised up with extraordinary gifts, or with great intelligence, and he is instrumental in developing some great principle. He and the world ascribe his great genius and wisdom to himself. He attributes his success to his own energies, labor and mental capacity. He does not acknowledge the hand of God in anything connected with his success, but ignores him altogether and takes the honor to himself; this will apply to almost all the world. In all the great modern discoveries in science, in the arts, in mechanics, and in all material advancement of the age, the world says, ‘We have done it.’ The individual says, ‘I have done it,’ and he gives no honor or credit to God. Now, I read in the revelations through Joseph Smith, the prophet, that because of this, God is not pleased with the inhabitants of the earth but is angry with them because they will not acknowledge his hand in all things’ (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 270-71).

    So we start up another flight of stairs, confident in our own ability to scale them without difficulty, and then, God allows us to stumble. And we’re shocked because we never see it coming. We just lay there sprawled over the steps with banged elbows and scraped shins, worried about our laptops and Dr. Pepper, and we look up at God and say,

    “What was that for?”

    And He smiles because finally we’re talking to Him, and that means we might even listen a little too.

  13. When you put some effort into taking care of something, you receive divine help in succeeding in your endeavors. You did what you could to protect your laptop and drink, and yet it was a miracle nothing happened to them.

    Also, sometimes we need adversity to recognize divine help in our lives.

  14. I liked your perspective. Instead of grousing about a hurt body and wounded pride, your focus was more on the Yay! of a saved laptop and drink and the miracle of not falling in the middle of a whole mob of people. We choose our attitude even when things don’t go right. That’s Viktor Frankl’s message in “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

  15. Somehow, somewhere, deep within the recesses of your mind, a vision of an Escher drawing was telling your legs, “this is going to go downwards in a few steps, be ready for it.” And those thoughts, as all thoughts do, became reality.

    Either that, or you’re just lazy and don’t pick up your feet. Do your shoes wear excessively from the dragging they endure?

  16. Same thing happened to me at the movie theaters. I was looking at my mom while walking up the stairs to our seats and tripped. I was holding a soda. My elbow got scraped (who cares?) but I did everything in my power to keep the soda upright and intact. That’s the stamp of a true American: soda > pain.

  17. 1. How about the idea of reexamining everything we are trying to balance in this life while moving forward at an ever increasing pace.

    2. Sometimes the Lord needs us to stop, even midstride, and readjust our focus and our priorities.

    3. Some people might suggest that pride goeth before the fall, but I don’t believe that. I use elevators.

    Really glad you were not hurt.

  18. I saw the falling up stairs thing and read you were carrying a soda and my heart was in my throat as I read. ACK!
    I cannot believe you didn’t spill that thing! Absolute miracle!

    We’re doing our best to follow our Saviour, we’re trying hard to walk in His path, juggling all our many cumbersome and heavy responsibilities, some of which are delicate and precious. And because we’re human, we fall, and we think we’re going to make a total mess of things. But the Lord is in charge. This is His work. And while we stumble, we ultimately cannot fail. It’s all going to work out alright in the end.

  19. I hope everyone realizes that you didn’t think your soda was that important–you just didn’t want the mess. (As a mother that would’ve been my thinking.) Here’s a good idea if it ever happens again and there IS someone watching. When my oldest daughter was working in Anchorage, she walked outside from her job and slipped on some ice. Knowing there WERE a lot of people who saw it, she got up, dusted herself off and bowed several times in all directions–as though it was a deliberate performance. I thought it was good quick thinking but of course she DID grow up in Gilbert where people are clever.

  20. May I also add that I love all these comments, ideas, insights, analogies, and reflections. Thanks MMM for asking for help.

  21. Well you were trying to choose the harder right. It wasn’t the easiest path and obviously not the path of least resistance but it was the better choice. Bad things happen to good people but we must protect the most important things, I.e. testimony, marriage, soda, laptop and get up and keep going. There will always be those in the great and spacious building who judge us and try to make us feel bad but if we take our mistakes we can learn from them and try to help others along the way build their testimonies

  22. All right, most of my thoughts have all ready been covered, so once again, late to the party. My take away on this is that no matter how spiritually minded you are, how focused you are on the eternal perspective, little things can still trip you up. Are we too busy being in the thick of thin things to see the bigger picture? Are we silently judging and comparing? Do we demean ourselves and think our best efforts are still not worthy? We need to look on everyone with Christ’s eyes and celebrate even the smallest of victories.

  23. I’ve “fallen” many times – ending up bruised in shin and spirit, body crumpled and soul crushed – only to realize later that instead of letting me fall, the Lord lifted me to a higher place. I’m grateful for His perspective, which is always so much more beautiful than mine.

  24. My “message” takes a different path than many of the comments above. One of my first thoughts while reading the post was, Why weren’t you holding onto the railing??
    The Master Builder knew there would be rewards and risks with taking stairs. He also knows we will often load our arms and backs with things that are good, better, and best (I’ll let you discern which one describes Dr Pepper…), and has provided means for stability and assistance. In a very literal sense, we should hold to the iron rod! But so often we think, Oh yeah, I’ve totally got this. I’ve climbed stairs a million times, everything I’m carrying is essential, and I have pretty good balance and coordination. Besides, using the railing will slow me down, and it’s only 2 flights of stairs. But then accidents like the fall you’ve described happen all the time, often with much worse results… and they easily could have been prevented or at least mitigated by one hand dedicated to holding to the rod.

  25. I’m pretty sure this can all be condensed into a pithy aphorism. [I love aphorisms. They used to be much more common before everyone got into texting and discovered that the word “meme” is shorter.] Unfortunately I was unable to conjure one that was fully appropriate and have therefore resorted to a slightly more modest form of literary legerdemain, the limerick:

    There once was a guy named McBride
    Who may have been preoccupied—
    He slipped on the stair
    But landed with care:
    Both laptop and soda abide.

  26. As I read about your mishap it made me think how there are times when it is possible for me to fall, even up as opposed to down, as I try to stay on the ‘path’. The thing to remember is to keep my focus on what is important (don’t spill the soda and make a mess others will have to clean, don’t damage the laptop, etc.) and do my best to recover regardless of humility or shame, keeping my eyes upward and continuing forward towards the intended goal. Coincidentally, this has been on my mind the past several weeks as I am reminded daily to keep my focus on my specific goal of serving a mission. Those pesky stairs!

  27. Only a slight relationship to stairs but here goes. My wife and I have done a few long distance bicycle rides (500 miles or more). After finishing a 1600 mile ride at the home of one of our children, we decided to do a little day ride to one of the nearby towns. As we got into the town, we were coming to a traffic light that was red and somehow I didn’t see a pothole in my way. Well, I hit it and was thrown off balance but managed to stay up but then I was going down again but then I was getting my balance back but finally the imbalance got to me and I was surely going down. The miraculous part was that somehow through all of this, I was able to lay the bike down and not hit the pavement with my body. My wife was riding a few yards behind me and observed all of this. The self talk in her mind was, “He’s goin’ down, no, he’s gonna be okay, wait, he’s goin’ down, etc. She was the only one we know of observing all of this and was truly amazed when I survived without any road rash.

    Lesson, I don’t know, maybe that through the craziness of life we seem to be wobbling out of control but that we can salvage most any situation with the proper life “balance” to keep us from really getting hurt on the pavement of life.

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