Yesterday afternoon I took a walk around our neighborhood, something I do several times a week. Except that yesterday I walked it in the opposite direction that I usually go. I passed the same houses, admired the same flowers, covered exactly the same territory that I have walked more times than I can count. But I did it facing a different direction than I usually walk.
I felt disoriented, off-balance. It was awkward and confusing. I was relieved when I got home, as if I was coming to a place of safety, not something I usually feel when taking my walk.
I also noticed different things, like the warning sign one man has put up about his neighbor’s dogs. A couple of days ago he told me about his problem and explained the barricade he had put up between their properties but I hadn’t realized he had made a sign for anyone to read. (I have never encountered those dogs ever.) I admired flowering bushes that were more apparent when walking the other way. A new perspective opened me up to new sights.
These last fourteen months of life under pandemic conditions, with social distancing, virtual worship, and all the other changes, have forced us to live life differently, like we have been walking in the opposite direction. It has been unsettling, disturbing, confusing. Add to that the social tensions in our nation as we wrestle with racial injustice, and the values and patterns and habits which made life feel safe and comfortable have shifted under our feet. Truly life feels disoriented and confusing.
Even as I was relieved to get home after my opposite-direction walk, I long for the day when life can feel safer and more familiar: no more pandemic conditions, less social tension. And I recognize that even post-pandemic, we will live as changed people. We will discover a new normal that will be different from what it was two years ago. In that new normal, we will be different people. We are struggling to find our balance on shifting ground, and it is hard. As we find that new balance, we emerge as stronger, more resilient people. Most of all, my prayer is that our society will be fairer, kinder, and more loving.
I think that, on occasion, I will take my walk in that different direction. It just might be good practice for the rest of life.