My daughter is almost 16 and has started taking classes at driving school. In our home state of Massachusetts, that means that she is attending 30 hours of classroom instruction, and that I, as her parent, was required to attend a parents’ driving class.
The instructor taught us something this week that was a revelation to me as a driver as well as offering me an insight into my life.
“When you are approaching a stop sign,” she asked, “where are you looking?”
Along with most of the other parents in the room, I thought about it and my answer was that I would be looking at the stop sign. The instructor smiled knowingly and demonstrated her thoughts on the subject. Standing at the front of the class, with her hands extended in front of her as though driving an invisible car, she processed across the front of the room, and as she approached her imaginary stop sign, she swung her head carefully to both the right and left. Of course! I thought, as I approach the stop sign, I am looking at the traffic to the right and left that may be approaching the same intersection. Light bulbs started popping all over the room as we all recognized this shared habit.
Immediately, I acknowledged what she was doing as something that I do myself. And I’m willing to bet that you are recognizing it in yourself as well. So far, every experienced driver that I have asked to think about it has recognized that s/he does this same thing. And I have noticed this week that even when I come to a complete stop, I still have approached the intersection by looking ahead to the left and right.
So here’s the question: if you are planning to stop at that sign, why do you need to know what is happening in the crossroad? Why does it matter? After all, you are going to stop and then look to the right and left before actually proceeding, aren’t you?
That answer is pretty clear. We are not actually going to stop unless we “have to”. The plan, at a subconscious level, is to roll through that stop sign if it looks safe to do so. The plan is to keep moving and get on to the next part of the drive as quickly as possible.
That’s where the revelation kicked in for me. The light bulb in the classroom recognizing this unsafe and unnecessary driving habit was definitely bright. But the big burst came to me when we were out for our walk this evening and I was telling Matt about my driving class revelation. We were discussing it and I said those words, “The plan is to keep moving and get onto the next part…” As I said that, I stopped walking for a second as the realization hit me as to how often in life we are doing exactly that. So many times, we are so busy looking ahead to the next crossroad of our day or our life that we don’t even see the intersection where we are.
Walking in, and crewing for, The 3Day Walks has helped me to move away from this unhealthy way of living my life. 60 miles is a lot of miles. And the only way to get through all of those miles is one step at a time. I have learned a lot about slowing down and living life one step at a time. On the 3Days of the event itself, I really do manage to be living that way. And I try very hard to live the other days of my life this way as well.
I take my time with the walk. It’s important to me to talk to lots of different people along the way, and I have met some truly inspiring people by stopping and paying attention to exactly where I am. Along the way on the 3Days, I've met people who have stayed in my life for years, including the man to whom I am now married. I've met people walking for themselves and people walking for their mother or sister. I have met a male breast cancer survivor who taught me so much about strength and passion that I had to take deep breaths to absorb the joy he felt for life. I've met people too shy to tell me their story but whose presence next to me has provided me with strength and motivation. I have met people who make me laugh and people who make me cry. If I had been walking too quickly through my 3 Days, I might have missed all those people.
Walking and crewing is an incredible opportunity to see and enjoy some of the most interesting sites. I have seen the 'Love Fountain' died bright pink and I have seen a family of immigrants weeping by the gates of a cemetery. I have seen boats in as many colors as flowers and flowers in as many colors as the rainbow. I have learned to look up and see the corner where I am standing before I take the next step. If I move too quickly, I have no idea what I might miss seeing, so I'd best slow down.
I try to remember to always look around at exactly where I am. After all, if I am worrying about what is coming next, I might miss three sweet little girls standing on the corner dressed head-to-toe in pink. By glancing ahead to the next turn in the road, I could so easily miss the sign those girls are holding up: “Our mom is our hero”. I’d hate to miss that.
Life really does move too fast. Before we know it, the baby who was just learning to walk is getting into her own car. If I don’t treat every day and every mile as if it is one of my precious 3 days, life will slip me by. I don’t need to look past the stop sign to see what is next. I really can pay attention to the moment I am in.
The next time that you are driving, pay attention to how you approach an intersection. And more importantly, once you get out of that car and walk into your day, pay attention to how you approach the intersections of your life. Remember, it is okay to stop and see exactly where you are before you need to look ahead to what is next. If we can do it on the walk, we can do it every day of our lives.