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  • I stopped in the middle of the path, hands on hips, elbows turned into sharp bones of contention. "Hey, you!" Jerk.

    The bicyclist pedaled on, maintaining his indolent pace as if he didn't hear me. I saw his silhouette like the afterimage of a flashbulb -- the dorky round helmet, the taut white t-shirt where it fought a losing battle against the bulge of his plump spare tire, the angle of his knees sticking out to the side because his seat was set too low. He rolled away down the bike path and I continued talking, although I could no longer see him and there was no one else to hear me.

    My voice rasped. A rush of internal heat flamed my cheeks. "What a rotten thing to say, you jerk. Who asked your opinion anyway? I should chase you down and drag you off that bike, give you a piece of my mind…"

    Granted, I had been plodding along, expending energy in my thoughts rather than through my feet. But that hardly gave him the right to intrude.

    "I could walk faster than that," he said.

    I had to admit the guy's statement was most probably true. Although I clung to the pretense that I was jogging, my gait no doubt looked like a shuffle. So? Who appointed this guy Judge of Pace? His factual statement turned judgmental the instant he spoke it out loud. Unsolicited. Unnecessary. Unwanted. Maybe those words described the story of his life. I didn't know that. I didn't know him. He didn't know me.
  • The guy couldn't know that my head pounded with the awful truth of death. A malignant brain tumor was killing my friend. My friend who had dedicated her life to helping others. She nurtured her children and grandchildren, supported her friends, loved her husbands (yes, all three of them, one at a time of course), counseled hundreds of clients in her role as social worker, and claimed it an honor to take care of her senile mother for the rest of her life.

    What good had the insolent bicycle guy done in his miserable life? I shook my fist in his direction and cried aloud for justice. I implored the universe to stop and take notice. I called on the power of karma to make that guy trade places with my friend.

    I ranted all the way home and spouted the whole story to my husband, daughter, and friends. At the end of the day, I sat down to write it out.
  • In the writing of it, I discovered a different kind of trade; what if the bicycle guy changed places with me instead of my friend, what would we learn about each other? And in the trade what might we each learn about ourselves? I hoped we would see how important it is to try to understand what motivates and affects the actions and decisions of others.

    Now I wish I could go back and retract what I shouted to the guy and say, instead, "Please, take a walk in the shoes of the other before you criticize her gait.

    Audio from Halycyon Bluff by E. Ryan Goodman
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