Distracted

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Yes, I am a distracted runner. Thank you for reminding me. That is not what I thought when I saw your face glowing from the phone you held while navigating your mini-van. I approached the intersection of Main and Salcedo aware of my surroundings and willing to yield to any vehicles present. Regardless of who had the right of way or when the lights would change, I knew my flesh was no match for the rubber and steel on the road we shared.

It’s a familiar intersection to me. I’ve traversed it many times on foot, by bicycle and in my car. It can be busy, so I know there is a good possibility that I will alter my course or cadence to avoid confrontation. It is no problem for me to acquiesce to cars and run behind them as they pass. Occasionally, I will pass in front of a stopped car if I can make positive eye contact with the driver.

At this intersection, I normally run behind any eastbound traffic on Salcedo since many turn right with only a cursory yield to southbound traffic on Main Street. This day was no different. I saw your dark blue mini-van approaching on my right and I was prepared to veer right to cross the intersection behind you. Then, I saw your face. Your movements showed conflict between the driving decisions you needed to make and the content you held in your left hand.

In my mind, I smugly wagged my head and raised my eyebrows. Since running tends to bring to the surface my true emotions, I may have physically performed the actions I was thinking. I don’t know. What I do know is that my smugness quickly amplified to full bore self-righteousness as your tire rolled up on the curb that defines the edge of turn lane.

“What is so important on that phone at 6:00 AM?” I thought. “A new post from that over-sharing relative, one of those clever memes, or maybe a new cat video.” Caffeine and exercise get my mind racing about as fast as my heart. Unfortunately my first thoughts are not always positive or empathetic. The driver quickly drove off the curb and continued her journey. I passed behind the van without incident or inconvenience.

“Maybe the distraction was a text from the child this working parent had just left behind at home. It could have been directions on where to meet the troubled friend who had just woke her with a call of distress.” I will never know the situation and that is alright. I am just grateful that God doesn’t let me wallow in my smugness for long without opening my eyes to other possibilities.

My emotions didn’t stop at empathy. Self-examination and conviction soon followed as I realized just how distracted I am while running on concrete paths made for motorized traffic.

Buds in my ears pump in the tunes that help take my mind off the pounding steps. I check my watch to confirm, and sometimes question, the distance I’ve covered. Staying hydrated is important, so a run of any distance means I’ll have a bottle of water somewhere. With greater distances comes the need for refueling and portable nutrition. Thinking about these things takes my mind away from traffic and other environmental considerations that could affect my personal safety or others around me.

So before I finished my morning run, I had accepted that I was certainly no better than the distracted lady on the curb. I realized that as I wagged my finger at her, there were three more wagging back at me. In his sermon on the plain, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Thank you for reminding me.

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