Thursday, June 11, 2020

Giving Way

"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness."
 -Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I also brake for big red dogs, but that's a different story.

Turning left out of my first-born's apartment complex is always a challenge, an unintended game of chicken on a busy suburban street. On a recent weekend afternoon, headed home after a half-hour of socially distant chatting, I found myself as usual, hunched up over the steering wheel, whipping my head back and forth, back and forth, looking for a hole in the steady flow that would at least let me zip out into the center lane, halfway to the promised land of the far flow of traffic. 

Thankfully, of all the hazards lined up with this particular traffic maneuver, dealing with pedestrians is not one of them. Sure, sidewalks edge the busy street, but they are usually empty. There's no crosswalk across the driveway to my daughter's apartment, so I typically pull right up to the first lane of traffic, which affords me the best vantage point for finding my opening. 

It was thus that I found myself on this particular day, engaged in all the customary forward-leaning, head-whipping behavior when I spotted a rare pedestrian headed my way. 

More specifically, he was a man out on a run.

In a glance, I observed that he was an athletic-looking guy, maybe in his thirties, cruising along at an impressive pace. He sported a pair of Air Pods and some sweet Nikes, and all together, those clues led me to assume he was probably a regular runner.

Which made me instantly sympathetic. As a regular walker, I know full well that many drivers out on the roads tend to overlook courtesy to pedestrians, and I get nearly run over several times a week.

So I put a pause on my back-and-forth traffic spotting to wait till he ran past me, and then quickly gauged the clearance around the front end of my car. I was nosed up pretty close to the onrushing cars but there was enough space for him to safely slip past me. 

Barely enough. But enough.

All of these thoughts leaped through the synapses in my brain in a millisecond. 

And then one more consideration crossed my mind. 

The man was black. 

And as I thought once again about all those inattentive drivers and near-misses that I deal with on a daily basis, it occurred to me that this man probably has to deal with worse. Much worse

Just as the man approached my car, I suddenly found myself shifting into reverse and backing up about a meter, giving him more than enough room to run straight across the driveway without having to edge around my car, and a very comfortable margin of safety from the cars rushing by. 

I didn't need to move my car. I wanted to move my car.

I decided to give him an extra measure of respect and courtesy that, as the events of recent weeks have reminded us, black people are often denied. 

He quickly ran past me without glancing up. 

* * * * *

Now I know this isn't justice. Me backing my car up a few feet to let a stranger run past is not going to stamp out systemic racism, eliminate police violence, or instantly solve the world's problems. 

And I have no interest in being a white savior. 

It was only a simple act of kindness, this giving way, and in the moment, it was the best I had to offer to the human being who crossed my path. And I'm glad I did. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment...I'd love to hear from you!