It was early Christmas morning and I was running down a sparsely traveled country road. I was 45 minutes in and at the midpoint of a long straight climb. It had been a peaceful run, having seen 5 cars at the most when I heard one approaching from behind. I was running on the left shoulder toward oncoming traffic (or lack thereof), so I paid little attention to it. That was until a man yelled out the open window with a raging “GET OFF THE ROAD, A$$HOLE!!”
Note that it was Christmas morning. Note that I was on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road – a good 10-12 feet away. As he looked at me through his side mirror, I spread my hands out in front of me, with a gesture that said “Why are you so angry?”
Why was he so angry at me for doing something that in no way affected his life? My mind went into introspection mode. What evoked his vitriol? It could not have been race-related. I’m as Caucasian as he is. It could not have been disdain for education or social class. I was wearing raggedy running clothes, giving absolutely no impression that I am a college professor. He could not have known my political leanings. I wasn’t even wearing a sports team logo that could have set him off. Maybe I was just too good-looking!
I could have chalked it up to that he was simply a jerk or perhaps strung out on meth. Or I could have made some other surface level assumption that would give me free rein to mentally write him off as worthless. I did not. I was saddened, not because I was the victim of his verbal assault, but because of his misery. I concluded that he was hurting – bitter because of some set of life circumstances, compelling to lash out at a target.
I continued to think on this through the remainder of my run. I pondered how today’s society, which even with all its glory and splendor, is broken on an individual level. So, a couple of hours later as I partook of a special Christmas day communion at church, I knelt in prayer for this man and the thousands (millions?) more like him who live in masked bitterness. I prayed that they would be loved and overcome whatever demons that haunt them. Other than make sure I am the best human I can be and teach my child to do the same, that is all I can do. At the same time, I am thankful for those who have and continue to love me, giving me the freedom to love and help others instead of casually attacking the anonymous person who is somehow different than me.
The following song by Graham Wilkinson came to mind and took on new meaning for me. Coincidentally, Graham is a co-founder of Until Life Makes Sense – a lifestyle apparel company and charity partner of For Those Who Would. Once again, a relationship formed through obstacle racing has enriched my life. My remaining prayer for the day is that each member of the OCR community will be that positive, shining example that enriches others’ lives.