You don’t know that I’ve already stepped aside six times for others. Just as I don’t know whether you have/haven’t as we shorten the distance between us with every stride. Yet I find myself counting when it is my/your turn. Find myself watching your body language. Become aware of my own.
You look young. Agile. Fleet of foot. I am older than you. Our dog older still. She is stiff of hips. Blurred of sight. Is it fair that we move and you don’t? For you it is a simple directional change. For me it is coaxing an unknowing slow-moving-reluctant-to-detour dog. I have done that six times already on our morning dog meander. Even though our old lady waddles with cranky painful joints now. Sniffs every blade of grass slowly – consumes the scent of each leaf on each low-hanging bush – grabs every molecule of invisible canine-conversations as we dog-plod each morning and evening.
You know nothing of this life. This routine. This dog who used to be our muscle-bound roaming animal of energy. Who would defend a tuft of grass in a field should another dog dare sniff it before she was done. Who would run miles before finally conking-out at home. Who still wags her tail to a new-found soulmate of every stranger passing-by. All the while resisting my reminding tug at the other end of the leash. She was a dog for whom others crossed the road when they saw us coming. This soft-hearted tough-looking animal.
Now it is you and I doing that as we approach each other.
We have had a year at most to practice this new skill. But a lifetime of distance between us being irrelevant. An inconvenience. Passing on a pavement (sidewalk) merely cause for momentary eye-contact (or not), for a fleeting nod of the head a smile a hello or hi (or not). We never scoped each other out. We were too busy walking in our imaginary masks of invisibility. Too busy thinking our busy-living thoughts. Too involved in our busy-busy-lives to have the time to see each other as we approached.
But “see each other”? We still don’t.
Our ageing dog has always had the time. A wagging tail, a sight, a sound, a sniff, a story-telling and story-giving as she and each passing pooch show-and-tell. That “canine conversation” of orifices we humans think disgusting. Think permissible for a fleeting doggy-detour but downright disgusting if doggy-savoured too long. Dogs have always “seen” each other where we haven’t.
You don’t know me and have no wish to either.
You only need know that either you or I step aside in our passing. For that is all we – the master race – need to know of each other.
We are not “dogs” at the end of a leash. We don’t pee on every scent of every other pee of every other dog. We have shiny-sanitised-porcelain in our private-protected-houses. We don’t sniff strangers’ orifices. We have mass-produced-products to hide our natural odour. We have learned to hide how-we-are-who-we-are under the mass-produced (taught) product of self-esteem and entitlement.
The entitlement of whether I or you move aside as we approach this morning. The entitlement we carry with us each day and with each other.
Our old ageing dog has an unfettered curiosity in her surroundings – her community. She will stare quietly at us all day every day. Noticing the smallest changes in each of us. Even smelling changes in our health that we know nothing of. Knowing more about us perhaps than we know ourselves. And so much more than we will ever know about this animal we feed, we air, we walk, we cosset, who depends on us for life … This animal who knows us better than we know them or ourselves. And loves us without condition always. Who will protect us even unto death.
All to be just a small part of our living.
So as you and I approach each other, both calculating who will have right-of-way and who won’t – knowing diddly-squat about each other. Even though we have nothing to hide we hide. Even though we are usually safe we fear. Even though we are usually loved we are alone.
Even though we have no reason to calculate we do.
It is just one reason why I love the walk of Jesus through the pages of the Gospels.
A walk more akin to that of our old ageing dog than of us. A walk of curiosity, of time for everyone, of love for everyone, of seeing and knowing, of concern and kindness, of humility and courage.
Yet we are taught to turn that simplicity and accessibility into the unattainable and unachievable. Make it faith and religion and God and detached and divorced from our everyday living. Taught to smile the church-smile and fill the church-diary. Taught to double-book and delete according to church-demands and committee pecking-orders.
We work for God and do what soldiers throughout eternity do. Grumble and moan.
I have stopped calculating who should move.
If I want to keep covid-safe in my way of keeping covid-safe that is down to me – not down to you to do that for me.
For that is entitlement.
More and more I prefer the walk of curiosity, of time for everyone, of love for everyone, of seeing and knowing, of concern and kindness, of humility and courage.
A walking of simplicity that is accessible to me right here and right now. A walk not of entitlement but of Love for me, Love for you, and Love for something bigger than both of us.
A walk so simple and accessible that our dog does it all day every day.