The other day I was walking down Main Street in Norway with a friend. We crossed the street twice, and both times, within seconds of turning to the curb at a crosswalk, with the obvious intent of crossing, a car braked fairly hard to allow us to cross. Nothing like screeching brakes, but both times the cars were travelling fast enough, were close enough to us, and could see us well enough to determine that we were clearly waiting and watching the traffic, that it was a toss-up whether the driver would choose to stop, or keep going, making us wait but not endangering us. I know in my time as a driver I have made both choices.
I commented to my friend that it is a good thing when people make an obvious effort to accommodate each other, adding, half-jokingly, that it’s much better than when they actually speed up in the same situation. This led my friend to wonder how long it would be before Norway experiences the same kind of tragedy that has occurred elsewhere: someone being killed or seriously injured just crossing the street in their community. He seemed to imply that it is inevitable. I didn’t like that thought. I want to believe that we have more control, more choice in our lives than that.
I know that accidents do happen despite the best human efforts, but I also know that accidents happen far more often when humans are not making our best effort. We know that distracted driving, distracted walking, and I would even say, distracted living, is on the rise. We tell ourselves that the holidays are especially a time of being busy, hurrying, divided attention, not being fully present in the moment as we find ourselves thinking about the gift we need to buy, the party we are planning, the next thing on our “to do” list. “It’s just the way it is”, we say. But this is not true. It is not inevitable that we go through our lives only half aware of who and what is around us. It is a choice. And even the simplest choices like slowing for someone in a crosswalk, smiling at a stranger, letting someone else go first in a line, matter. Each choice to pay attention, to consider each other, to slow down on the road and in life, contributes to the kind of community we all say we want to have. These are choices we all can make. Imagine what it would be like, if we did.
Happy and healthy holidays, everyone.
Jim Douglas, M.Ed. is the Partnership Director for Healthy Oxford Hills, your local Healthy Community Coalition and a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital. You can connect with him at 739-6222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HealthyOxfordHills
Reprinted with permission from the Advertiser Democrat