Anita and Beth took to the streets aggressively, hoping to burn off a few calories as they walked. They chatted a little at first, but as their pace quickened and their hearts pumped harder, they found themselves speaking less and watching more.
For Anita that meant watching the ground in front of them. Even though she had walked this route hundreds of times, she knew there were always branches and rocks and potholes along the way, and she wanted to be alert to them. She is a busy, active, dynamic woman – the last thing she needed that night was a twisted ankle or a tweaked knee to slow her down.
Beth, on the other hand, was more inclined to take in the sights as they made their way around the mile-and-a-half course. She noticed Halloween decorations starting to go up on neighborhood houses. She waved and exchanged bits of passing conversation with neighbors. She chuckled as children played night games in front yards. She was strolling — fast.
Anita, meanwhile, was power-walking.
“Have you ever seen so many stars in the sky?” Beth said as they walked through an unfamiliar part of the neighborhood. “Wow! It’s amazing!”
Anita glanced up. The sky fairly shimmered with heavenly excess. “It is beautiful,” she acknowledged as her eyes returned to the road ahead just in time to notice that Beth was about to step into a pothole.
“Watch out!” she said, reaching for Beth’s arm and guiding her around the hazard.
They continued walking, Anita’s eyes on the ground and Beth’s eyes everywhere else.
“Look!” Beth exclaimed. “A shooting star!”
Anita looked up. “Where?”
“Over there!” Beth said, pointing to a spot in the eastern sky. “It was huge!”
“Maybe it was a satellite or something,” Anita said as she forged ahead with her walking.
“No, it was a shooting star,” Beth said confidently. “I’ve seen several of them tonight.”
As the two women trudged up the last hill, their pace slowed and Anita began to more fully appreciate the breathtaking clarity of the sky and lustrous glory under which they walked.
“I guess I need to be a little more aware of what’s going on around me,” she said, a trace of regret in her voice. “Sometimes I get so focused on doing what needs to be done that I don’t really notice anything else. Like this beautiful sky.” She paused, taking it all in, then sighed: “How do you miss seeing the sky?”
“I know what you mean,” Beth said. “Sometimes my mind is so busy trying to take everything in that I have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of me. Like that pothole. If you hadn’t warned me about it, who knows what would have happened?”
Two women, on the same walk, enjoying the same lovely fall night — but differently. Is one approach to walking — and to life — right and the other wrong? Or is there room out there for both focus and vision — for those who stick meticulously to the task at hand, as well as those who occasionally wander off into the cosmos?
Seems to me the combination of perspectives and styles worked for Anita and Beth, for the ultimate benefit of both. Maybe it can work that way for the rest of us, too, as we walk – sometimes fast, sometimes not – through the occasionally mean streets of our lives. With apologies to Frank Sinatra, doing it “My Way” works best when complimented, augmented and enhanced by trusted associates doing it “Their Way.”
Especially if there are star-filled skies overhead, and dangerous potholes at our feet.