The Shoulder Life

Walking, listening, and contemplating off the beaten path

So…

I finished the first draft of a novel I’ve been ruthlessly working on for a year.

That’s exciting, right?

(cue the crickets currently occupying my blog)

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…to greener pastures

Quote of the Day:
“A beginning is a delicate time.”
Christopher Vogler
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time walking alongside the fast lane it is this: I’m disjointed.

Image

“What do you mean disjointed, and who are you anyway?”

Nope. It’s not time to talk about me, but I will grant your former question an answer. So strange it seems to those riding in the fast lane, you know, where people belong and where people belong in cars, that I should walk on the side of the road, on the shoulder. Innumerable are the times I’ve noted some befuddled passerby eying me with one side of their lips raised in conjunction with the parallel eyebrow, as if I were the odd one for using my feet for so odd a purpose as, you know… walking.

Allow me to share a brief snip-it from my recent venture to Uganda, Africa. While in Uganda, we had access to a van, a worn, rusty, prone-to-breaking-down van. Other than this limo, we had our feet, and we walked everywhere. Prior to Uganda, I walked often and loved it no less upon departure from the Pearl of Africa, but I noticed a stark shift in culture once I returned. Back in Uganda, where walking is typical, people were more willing to offer rides to others walking, perhaps out of a sort of empathy for the walker. Yet here, I have only received voluntary rides from three notable types of people:

  • an immigrant from west Africa
  • a student from my own Kuyper College
  • a firefighter
  • an army recruitment officer
  • a woman who was adamant to tell me all about speaking in tongues
  • a pastor

You will note that six people are listed above, and you may have dully noted them subtly linked in categorical couplets. The three types of people I have thus far experienced kindness from are people who know what its like to be poor and disjointed (the immigrant and student), men of valor and self-sacrificial vocation (the firefighter and army officer), and people of passion and faith (the woman who spoke in tongues and the pastor). In summation, let’s just say that this world could use more people of empathy, of valor, and of faith.

Do you have empathy? Are you a listener? Do you love hearing people tell their stories? Do you ask prodding and prudent questions? Then you have empathy, so use it.

Do you have valor? Are you willing to stand up, against the current, and out of line with the fast lane which demands you move along? Then you have valor, so use it.

Do you have faith? Are you bent, but not broken? Are you one who suffers righteously and surrenders to the greater good? Then you have faith, so use it.

Do you lack these things?

Are you shy and submissive, quiet and a bit of a push-over? You have empathy buried within you, so draw it out. Are you strong-willed, often angry, and prideful? You have valor buried within you, so draw it out. Are you weary and unsure, lost or wandering without direction? You have faith buried within you, so draw it out.

The shoulder life isn’t easy, and it exists somewhere between the dangerous fast lane and the peaceful respite of greener pastures, but it begins by being the shoulder for someone else. We’re walking to the dead end, where planes, trains, and automobiles may not go. We’re walking to sacred ground, where shoes must be removed and the grass will caress our blistered feet. Yet we are not there yet; we walk the shoulder life, and as we are going, we walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Yet we know death is but a door.

Let us always seek sincerity.

Song of the day:
“On the Long Road Home” – End of the Ocean