Distance and Presence

“Presence is more than just being there.” – Malcolm Forbes

The past several months have been challenging for everyone in a myriad of ways — work, kids, isolation, basic safety, etc. While I’ve adjusted well to the remote work environment and have had the unexpected blessing of my children’s company at different times over the course of this pandemic, I’ve not escaped mourning the loss of normalcy. One of the strangest losses I’ve experienced involves my running and what’s felt like a broken connection with the world around me. Which, of course, sounds a bit ridiculous given that running is a solitary activity.

For this introverted girl, it’s not ridiculous at all. Running is when I feel most connected to my neighbors. But now, instead of stopping to love on every leashed dog along my route and high-fiving random strangers who are struggling with their run, I have to step off the curb and into the street – or even cross the street completely – to avoid getting too close. Instead of viewing each approaching runner or walker as an opportunity to extend a smile or a hello, I view each approaching person with an abundance of caution.

But over time, I’ve found that I am able to relax a bit more in our local parks than on the sidewalks in my neighborhood. The paths are wider, automobile traffic isn’t an issue, it’s easier to maintain a safe distance. And very recently, I’ve found small ways to connect with people and still manage to be present — even when I run by at a distance, including:

  • Cheering on a little one who is learning to manage their “big kid” bike without training wheels, assuring them of their awesomeness;

  • Telling an awkward teenage girl dressed in her prom finery that she looks beautiful, even as she poses for photos without a date — and watching her beam at the words because, if only for one day, she believes it;

  • Admiring out loud the wonderful manners of a sweet dog along the path and watching its owner smile with pride.

  • Making eye contact with, genuinely smiling at and greeting someone I know is of a different race or religion than myself — because the world desperately needs uniters;

  • Pointing out an unusual bird or animal to someone who pauses to try and figure out what’s caught my attention;

  • Thanking park patrol or employees for keeping our parks beautiful;

  • Telling a couple that is posing together for a selfie that they look fabulous — and making them laugh;

  • Remembering that each person that approaches is sharing in the same amazing experience of enjoying the outdoors in a wonderful space — and that we are more alike than we are different;

  • Thanking God that we can still be joyful, kind and present to our fellow humans in this chaotic world, even while we maintain distance.


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