Recently, I went for a mountain bike ride in my favorite forest here in North Georgia and had an experience that really changed the way I look at life and more importantly, altered the way I interact with the world. On this bike trail, the direction is one-way for safety, as some bicyclists get going pretty fast down the hills but the direction changes each day, so it can get confusing. When I ride and I come across someone going the wrong way, I stop and gently tell them the correct direction. Usually, they are new to the trail and they appreciate the information, since the signs showing the correct direction are sparse.
A few days ago I went for a ride, truly enjoying a mild summer day and the canopy of trees above me. I had not seen another rider all day. Suddenly, I look up and see a rider is coming right toward me, so I quickly pull off the trail and say, “You are going the wrong way.” This other rider speeds up and says, as he flies by me, “Yea, you are!” As he hurries away, I yell, “You better check that , DUDE!” thinking he may cause an accident and I am helping him.
I brush off this encounter and keep riding, trying to get back into it when I come upon a sign, marking the correct direction and I see, with surprise and chagrin, that I WAS GOING THE WRONG WAY. This was a complete paradigm shift, and I was abashed in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time, especially as I reflected on how I yelled, childishly after the other rider. I turned around and rode quickly, trying to catch the other rider and apologize and make amends, but I couldn’t find him. So, what do I do with this encounter?
In the car, on the ride home, I reflected on this and thought that the lesson here is to be more careful bike-riding, but that seemed too small. I tried to enlarge my view and thought, this is about me being more patient when I drive. Again, I realized this was probably not the message. Then it came to me, this is really about me not being so “self-righteous” when I think I am right, because as I saw in this story, I may not be right.
Many times in life, I am going the wrong way, in one way or another, and I try to correct others, when I should be self-reflecting and ensuring I am on going in the right direction, whatever that direction is for that day or in that moment. Also, I am deeply grateful for the many, many loving family members and friends who have helped me throughout my life, as they lovingly pointed out when I was going the wrong way or when I get completely off the path, lost in the forest. Innumerable people have lovingly held my hand, walking with me to help me find the path and go the right direction. One last thing I learned, I can laugh at myself in this story and in life, remembering not to take myself so seriously, DUDE!