By Laura Andes
“It’s tough to do the right thing.” I’ve heard it, thought it, and shared it. And I’m willing to wager I’m in (your) good company. We may end up squabbling over what tough actually means, but I intend to challenge this perspective.
Setting an admirable daily example is most definitely a labor of love, yet it is nevertheless an accessible skill. Indeed, becoming a hero is not just attainable but also uncomplicated. So much, so that being a decent, honorable community member could all start with an act as simple as deliberately choosing to walk on the correct side of the street.
Blessed to be a resident of beautiful Morro Bay, I have nurtured a most gratifying habit: I walk or cycle near the gorgeous coastline almost daily. Given my most common routes utilize streets without sidewalks, I am well-informed when it comes to human-behavior-on-public-roads. It is sad, if not distressing, that a shockingly sizable percentage of pedestrians apparently do not grasp that there is only one correct side of the street to walk along.
Why? Well, selecting one side of the street is unquestionably a more perilous prospect for a pedestrian than choosing the other. No matter which side of the street you choose to walk on, there will be two primary sources of danger: moving vehicles in front of and behind you.
When people walk in the same direction as the flow of traffic, their bodies are closest in proximity to approaching automobiles they are unable to see (and thus unable to react to in a timely strategic manner). On the other hand, when people walk against the flow of traffic, they see with ease the closest moving hazard; hence, they can, if necessary, react swiftly and appropriately to an approaching vehicle that poses the most danger to them. Therefore, facing oncoming traffic as a pedestrian is the safest course of action.
You might be wondering, “Come on, lady, how could choosing where to walk make me a hero?”
Well, because when you are safer, we are safer. Being safe is a group effort. Obviously, group effort requires individual effort: without individuals contributing, there is no group to speak of. Furthermore, even though walking with the flow of traffic may not be a legal violation, putting yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily defies common courtesy as well as common sense. Put differently, legality and morality are not synonymous terms.
Still, there is a different, more pressing reason why intentionally choosing where to walk is heroic.
Taking a moment (one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi) to inhale deeply and deliberate about your next course of action makes you the kind of hero we so desperately need. A regular routine of breathing deeply and taking a few sacred seconds to ponder, “what’s the ideal (safest…sustainable…sympathetic) course of action I can take right now?” is the motherload when it comes to establishing excellent habits. It is to our detriment that this undeniably useful mental mindset is woefully lacking in our highly distractible, technology-centered, buzzingly busy 21st-century lifestyle.
Developing mindfulness is undoubtedly a labor of love; that said, even when we fail to become sage-like experts, we improve ourselves (and thereby the world) just by way of trying to become more skilled. When we seize upon life’s countless opportunities to become more mindful, each and every one of us becomes exactly the kind of hero we need. And it could all start with an act as simple as deliberately choosing to walk on the correct side of the street.
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