People in My Way

I’m tired of walking circumspectly.

There.  I said it.  It may be grounds for being called before the church board.  The red-headed lady who raised me might not be as proud of me right now as she usually is.  But, I’ve just had it with being careful.  I want to stretch my legs and run full-out.  No more of this worrying about who’s in front of or behind me.

I’d like to be a road hog, taking my half out of the middle and going whatever speed I choose.

I imagine more than a couple of you are scratching your heads right now.  Somebody will probably even turn to the person next to them and say, “I told you he was going nuts.  He’s finally cracked.”  You might not be far wrong in the assessment.

Let me see if I can explain.

The beautiful little town I live in erected an outside gym recently.  It’s a wonderful affair with exercise equipment which is located out in the open air, right near the walking/biking trail I haunt.  Did I say near the trail?  I meant to say right smack-dab in the middle of the trail.  Well, more accurately, the parks department had the gym built in the middle of the old trail and then built a bypass trail next to it for those of us who eschew the weight-lifting side of physical fitness.  (That’s just for show-offs anyway.)

The problem is the outdoor gym attracts people.  People who like to stand and watch other people exercising.  Maybe, they’re just waiting for them to get done.  Perhaps, they want to see a demonstration of the technique necessary to get ripped abs.  Regardless, they stand right in the middle of the bypass trail on which those of us who really want to work out need to be riding or running.  Right in the middle.  When it happens, there is almost the feeling of an obstacle course.

The outdoor gym has had another effect on my exercise as well.  For some reason, it has attracted many more walkers to the trail nearby, with the result being a glut of people sauntering along the trail I’d like to fly through, either biking or running.  To avoid running over the little children–yes, they even bring their families out to the trail to exercise–I actually have to slow down and sometimes even move over onto the grass on the side of the trail.

Imagine my frustration as I speed up to try and meet my target time for a section of trail, only to have to slow down and work my way around all the people in my way.

Fast. Slow.

Fast. Slow.

I am tired of it.

I am reminded of a phrase I read a lifetime ago in one of the James Herriot books.  That’s the pen name of the British Veterinarian who wrote of his life in the Yorkshire Dales of northern England.  Mr. Herriot tells of an old farmer who was complaining of his experience in a large city, a place the farmer said he’d never go again.  The tall man was used to striding across the countryside with a wide gait, stretching his legs to their limit to get to his destination as rapidly as he could.  When he was in the city, he was on much more level ground with sidewalks and streets everywhere, but he was greatly hampered by all the people who got in his way.  He never could find his stride.

“Big steps and little ‘uns,” was how the long-legged farmer described the experience.

Big steps and little ‘uns.  I know just how he felt.  Oh, how I long to stretch out and go full-speed!

Ah, but there’s more to be said, isn’t there?  We don’t live life by ourselves, out on the hillside.  We live life in community.  There are people all around.

Pesky people.  People who get in the way.  People who slow us down.

People who need us to slow down and pay attention.  To them. And there we come to the crux of the matter, don’t we?

When we get right down to it, life is not about us.

I have yet to see a tombstone that declares proudly, “He took care of himself.”  There is nothing to praise in the self-centered life; nothing to applaud about the egoist who demands his own way.

I have been such a person.  I don’t want to come to the end of my life in the same condition.

The legacy I want to leave is one of having been aware of who the folks around me were.  I want to understand what they need and help to fulfill it.  I would like for my eyes to be on a different goal than the bank balance, or the clock on the wall.

I want that to be true even if it means I have to take a few little steps (or a lot of them).  Even if it means I have to slow down or take a detour.

So–I don’t get to live life in the fast lane.  I will walk circumspectly.  All the word means, literally, is to look around as we go.  That’s it.  Look around–take care.

I can do that.  And, I’ll even take a few little steps along with the big ones.

How about it?  You up for looking around with me?

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.”
(James Thurber ~ American author ~ 1894-1961)

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
(Ephesians 5:15,16 ~ KJV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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