As I runner, I have a love-hate relationship with sidewalks. When they aren’t all broken up because they haven’t been properly maintained or cluttered with trash and yard debris (often looking just about like the picture I put at the beginning of this post), they are the safest place for me to run in my little suburb. Since I don’t want to be a danger to myself or others, I try to use the sidewalks.
However, there seem to be some people who live in houses on my regular route who are oblivious to the idea of pedestrians. They trim the yard and prune the trees — and leave the mess right in the middle of the sidewalk, making it impassable. I’m always looking ahead to see where I need to step back out into the road and trying to judge if it’s safer just to run on the street facing into oncoming traffic.
Even more fun is when I’ve made the decision that the street is actually safer, and I have drivers try to run me off the road to “prove” that I should be on the sidewalk.
I’ve been in a highly reflective mood lately, and so I saw an object lesson in all of this: In what ways in life am I like clueless residents who clutter their sidewalks, and in what ways am I like the drivers who will endanger my safety to prove a point?
I think this boils down to habits and patterns that may seem normal to me, but make life harder on others. As a parent, it could be trying to hard to “make” my child behave perfectly, achieve good grades, or reach some other standard that I have set for them. As a friend, it could be venting to a friend and letting it turn into gossip rather than an attempt to get my head on straight. Anything that I do that could encourage someone else to live down to the lower common denominators of society is blocking their sidewalks as they journey to become their best selves.
Rude drivers have judged me to be infringing on their rights and priveleges, to be acting out of bounds, and to be unaware of my “place” and my surroundings. How many times have I, secretly or openly, judged another person because their choices and actions look unintelligent to me? How many times should I have given the benefit of the doubt when I did not? How many times have I told people what they should do without understanding where they are coming from or what they are trying to accomplish? That makes me figuratively just like a rude driver.
I’m not writing this to suggest that anyone can get through life without receiving and giving a few bumps and bruises. No matter how good our intentions, “pobody’s nerfect,” as a college professor used to regularly remind me.
I think, instead, that the best I (or anyone else) can do is to try to be aware of the effect that I am having on others and do my best to make those encounters as uplifting and positive as possible.