I went for a walk before coffee this morning. Now that the temperature is approaching summertime levels, I must make a choice between getting out early while the morning is still cool or waiting until the day is over, when I feel defeated and ready for bed. This morning I decided on the former.
I skipped coffee—who needs it? Not me! I can do this without coffee. My productivity is not bound by magic bean water. That was the mantra I repeated as I stumbled down the hall and reached for water instead.
I walked to the track—at the local park—where I walk most days. A quiet, serene sanctuary where I escape the troubles of my day and recalibrate. It is where I recently spotted a fledging Barn Owl and a Great Blue Heron. Just last week, I spotted a baby rabbit. Each time I completed a lap on the track, as I approached the same bushes, the rabbit would wait and watch me until I moved closer. Each time, it would retreat into the brush with a flash. It was a game we played, a game that would end upon the arrival of more people.
This morning was much like other mornings, still and calm. The sun was creeping through the trees, and I could hear the birds singing through my earbuds. Before I was able to make one lap around the track, I noticed a swarm of people crowding the entrance. They all wore red shirts, a harsh contrast to the green environment and my purple attire. I paused as they filed through the entrance, and I waited for my opportunity to leave. Their shirts displayed a phrase, Walk for Hope, and I wondered if Hope was a person or an idea. I failed to ask.
I noticed the grass had been cut and some of the brush weedeated since my last visit. I glanced at the spot where the rabbit and I played our game a week prior. The creature was nowhere to be found.
I decided to try a different route, but everywhere I looked, arrows were posted to guide the participants on their walk. In retrospect, perhaps I could have stopped and asked about the benefit. Maybe I could have participated. Maybe I could have met someone new or learned something or contributed to something outside of myself. Instead, I was angry. At the people walking. At myself.
I turned to walk home, and a bug flew into my nose. It was a direct shot. I felt my eyes water and cursed the air as music blasted through my earbuds. I thought back to when I was a child, and I practiced with the church choir. Ms. Martha was the choir director, a woman who spent a great deal of time entertaining me through church-related activities. She wore rings on every finger, which I thought was rebellious, less strait-laced. There was a moment during choir practice when she told me the story of a fly that made its way straight into her mouth during a performance. Of course, I was appalled that something like that would happen. The way she recalled the event was nonchalant, as if it were no big deal. She told me the show must always go on. To 10-year-old me, that was huge! It was something I could not fathom. How do you not let something blindside you?
I was surprised the first time I saw Ms. Martha’s name at work. It had been over 20 years since I sat at her dinner table. I knew she was a probate judge, but I did not know that she filled in with cases at our healthcare site. I work for a hospital that specializes in providing excellent patient care for those who suffer with mental health diagnoses. Because all our patients are considered, by law, a vulnerable adult, it is necessary to have on-site court cases, depending on patient circumstances and treatment plans in place. As an adult with my own mental health challenges, and as an employee of the Department of Mental Health, I knew immediately that Ms. Martha had experience and a perspective that could be unmatched. I remembered her as the woman who shed her rings in the pew beside me when my father filled in as an associate pastor, and I remembered her as the woman who snuck Juicy Fruit gum to me between hymns. I still remember the weight of her rings in my hands.
I finally brewed coffee when I made it home from my walk, downed a bottle of water, and turned on the television. A crime scene show was on, which would normally not be my first pick, but I wanted something different. Something to turn the day around. I watched intently as a body bag was drudged up from the river and a medical examiner unzipped the black canvas to reveal a deceased man. As I took a sip of coffee from my mug, the man in the body bag gasped for air. I jumped, and the coffee cup banged against my top two teeth. Alas, no teeth were broken, but I would like to believe the jolt of adrenaline gave the coffee an extra push needed to work its way through my system!
Since the crime scene show was too scary for my delicate brain, it was only natural that I changed the channel to a UFO documentary. I washed dishes while I listened, and there was a knock at the door. I opened to find my neighbor standing in the doorway with a plastic bag. Before I could react, her dog bolted into my apartment. With sudsy hands, I stood there, stunned. She managed to coax the pup back outside and, in turn, handed me the bag that contained two fresh ears of corn from the local farmer’s stand.
I think about the people walking this morning, how hopeful and jovial they were. I think of the neighbor, how she was kind enough to bring me fresh produce. I think of the rabbit, how I hope it found a safe place to hide, and how I wonder if I will ever see it again. I think of the difference coffee makes, the difference a person can make, the difference anger can make. I think of how many times I have failed and how many times I have started fresh. I wonder how many times I will release my anger to find it creep up again. If I will ever not be blindsided by the unexpected. In the end, if I have learned nothing else, it is to always drink the coffee first.