A few days ago I was on a dawn hike, moving at a fair clip while pondering the sequel to The User’s Guide. I passed a fellow hiker, and soon heard her yell, “how dare you!”
I turned to see who she was hollering at, and noticed that she was looking back at me, still barreling along the trail. No one else was anywhere to be seen.
“Are you okay?” I asked, perplexed.
“You never stop to let me by!” she hollered, continuing along the trail. “You hit me last week too!”
“I’m sorry,” I said, not quite sure what she was talking about. Our arms had brushed when we passed, but that was not uncommon on this particularly narrow and highly trafficked trail. “It wasn’t my intention to—”
“You’re always in such a hurry!” she yelled, almost out of by now sight.
“It seems the same is true of you,” I replied.
To this, she stopped, then turned to face me. “I’m a woman!” she cried, raising her arms in exasperation. “If you had any class, you’d move out of my way!” She added a few expletives, then continued onward around the bend.
Wow, I thought. I might have even said it out loud. I stood there, wondering how I might have found myself in such a hostile exchange on morning that was otherwise so quiet and peaceful.
I began to have thoughts like, I feel sorry for your boyfriends, and so on. Then I realized that I had dropped into the same level of conflict as she. Barreling back along the trail at my own pace, a began to see that our little encounter was a reflection of matters playing about inside me.
What can I take from this? I wondered. I began to realize just how disconnected and caught up in my own thoughts I tended to be while hiking. I realized that regardless of her own complexities, this woman had reflected a lack of respectfulness to me, and that it was a valuable gift—if only I chose to see it that way.
I set the intention to be more aware of and considerate of others as I made my way through each day. I found this fairly easy, except when I was driving about through the bustle of Los Angeles streets. There was work to be done while negotiating those streets, I realized. I indeed had matters of respectfulness to deal with.
The next day I returned to the trail hoping to see her again, hoping to thank her for her for reminding me to be better aware of my surroundings and my fellow travelers. That day, and the week following, she never appeared again.
So it is that I put it out to all of you instead. I intend to be mindful of every person who crosses my path. I intend to be respectful of your path, especially when it brushes by mine. I intend to slow down, and acknowledge your momentum. I intend to see and honor you in those brief moments when we pass along our greater journeys together in life.
Go Shining, my friends!