About a week ago, I got up and out as I commonly do. I put on my running shoes, wrapped my earphones around my ears, and moved through the door grateful for the physical capability and emotional determination to head toward Enslen and Graceada parks. My normal routine is getting there, a couple “figure eights” running around the parks, and then getting home. Pounding the pavement somehow pounds me out of my head and into my body and heart space in ways that are glorious. Besides any calorie burn, these times are well worth it for the wisdom and creativity that tends to rise on the run. And then there is the beauty and benefit of the practice of being out in the world, making it a point to see and acknowledge strangers I share this community with. Both those who live in houses and those whose home is in the parks. I often take for granted or forget how long I’ve been doing this now. People will wave from cars or porches or who are walking their dogs or running the Virginia Trail regularly as if they’ve known me for years. In many ways, they have.
It’s a great invitation to reflect on what it means to be community, and how long or in what ways do we have to “know each other” before counting each other as valued neighbor or friend? Particularly over the past couple years, I’ve learned the names of more and more persons I regularly cross paths with. Those who regularly walk their dogs or sit on porches, or frequent the park all day hangin with other friends in the homeless community. And they are learning mine. Or they just call me “runner girl”, or “Chicago” (because one guy remembered he had found out I was training for the Chicago marathon at one point.) I love it. He knows my “real name” now, and I am trying to remember his.
For a long time now, a woman who happens to be homeless runs ahead of me or close by for a short stretch when she sees me coming. Or if not, she waves from a distance as she yells an encouraging word I usually hear over my music. I always try to respond in some way with a wave, nod or word. What a gift, I think to myself. She’s my sister, too. I should really learn her name. Today it just worked out she was ahead of me walking on the street, and when she saw me she started running a bit ahead of me. I decided I was determined to ask her name and give mine when she would certainly slow down to a walk. This had gone on long enough. It was time for a next step. (No pun intended…) When she was finally out of enough breath and stopped, I took a deep one, pulled out my right ear phone and said, hey, sorry if it seems I don’t hear you sometimes. I usually have my music on and earphones in. What’s your name? Angie, she said. Well, I’m Erin, and I hope you have a great day. I put my ear phone back in to move on, and then it immediately happened. Directly in my earphones I heard, “BATTERY LOW”. And in less than a minute, my earphones were dead. I’m sure I laughed out loud. It was as if someone or some force said, “Well, if it that’s really why you don’t hear her or stop, because your music is on and your earphones are in, I can solve that.” BAM! I was pretty much stopped in my tracks. Was my music and were my earphones some kind of unknowing excuse not to reach out even more to this sister, or anyone else along the way? At a minimum did they create an awfully convenient excuse sometimes not to be inconvenienced or challenged to reach out further to all kinds of members of my community sometimes when I was running?
My headphones were dead, so I took them out for the rest of my run. There was new music playin in my head and heart to be present to now anyway. Over and over I experienced the steady rhythm of hearing my words to Angie, the earphones immediately dying, the voice in my head saying how it took care of my dilemma if that’s really all the problem is, and me taking my earphones out, now free of another layer between me and my community. (If I really wanted or was willing to be free of that barrier.)
Sacred insights and invitations come in many forms and frequently. Some we are fortunate to catch. I wonder how many we miss. I’m still deciding whether to put the earphones back in. Or at least whether I’ll wear them everyday.