Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Strangers Conquer Ovidophobia

The human connection. Astounding. It can make us feel whole when our world is in pieces. It can remind us that God loves us in a profound way that we can only glimpse. And, it can allay our most irrational fears.

Yesterday I was riding my bike. I do this several times a week, and there's one stretch I usually ride on which I use the sidewalk. I have justified this to myself by reasoning I'm more likely to be hit by a car on a busy road than actually to be swallowed by a snake. Besides, the sidewalk was made for such a purpose.

Yes, I did say "swallowed". It stems, I believe, from that song I learned in kindergarten: "I'm being swallowed by a boa constricter...and I don't like it very much!" Also, I blame it on my dad and Eve. I share it with thousands of others, maybe millions, as it is the most common phobia--not necessarily being swallowed, but a fear of snakes. Believe me, I don't plan ever to be close enough to one to be bitten, so I'm not afraid of that!

Anyway, this sidewalk has the busy street on one side, and a field with horses on the other, for a ways; then a few businesses and homes, then dips down into a low water crossing and up where a tall bushy hedge grows. Now, when I lived up north, if I heard a rustling in the grass or leaves, I assumed it was a squirrel; now I assume it's a snake, lying in wait to swallow me. I plan my route in such a way that I really do ride this stretch almost every day. Yesterday, I decided to try to ride through it quickly, rather than slowly. I have trained myself to look neither left nor right, just straight ahead, so maybe if I ride fast enough 1) I won't see any snakes and 2) they won't catch me.

As I was pedaling along, I met a pedestrian. I did slow down and keep right, so he and I could both share the sidewalk. Then I met another cyclist. Seeing both of them made me feel much better. I figured at the very least they both had scared off any snakes that were waiting for me at the other end of the path. Plus, it reminded me that the sidewalk is probably used by humans, not snakes--people like me who are enjoying the mornings when it's below 70 degrees here for a few hours, people whom I may never see again but with whom I share this sidewalk for a few moments. And in that sharing, they have changed my day, allowed me to relax a bit, diminished my irrational fear.

It doesn't take much--time, energy, effort--to make a difference. I suppose God has known that all along; may we remember it today, as we grace the world with our presence.


At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool post. We are blessed by all sorts of people--some whose names we might never know. Gives us a different perspective on our various encounters. . .

-Lauren D


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