I run. I mentioned how I like to run in a recent blog post. I’m currently training for a half marathon that I definitely do not feel prepared for, but we’ll get through it.
I think that running has made me a better driver. Let me start by prefacing that I am not a bad driver. My parents would probably like to disagree with this statement, but this is my blog so…
Being a runner has made me a better driver because it has forced me to think like a runner while I’m driving and to think like a driver while I’m running.
Why have I needed to develop this awesome and impressive skill? Mostly because drivers suck and I’ve almost died while running a gajillion times.
It is entirely possible that I happen to live in area where this is particularly bad, but I doubt it. Bad drivers are everywhere. I can’t run on the treadmill and I get bored after a few miles on the track, so the sidewalk it is.
I get tripped up when I have to take a break at stoplights, but I am constantly astounded by how many people don’t even think to check for pedestrians crossing. This is where that handy skill is useful. It’s pretty easy to tell if someone isn’t paying attention to you. Generally, they’re looking the other way and that makes it obvious enough.
I’m not just writing this to rant about people being crappy drivers. I’m hoping it causes a few people to look both ways before they nudge their two ton vehicle into the crosswalk on a red light when I clearly have the right of way.
More importantly, I think this idea of having to consider how a runner is processing and thinking when I’m not running is a pretty decent metaphor for empathy, something that I’d love to see more of these days.
The dictionary definition for empathy is “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.” Basically, empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes.
Every time I run and understand that the soccer mom in the mid-sized sedan who is currently yakking on her cell phone obviously doesn’t see me, I am able to take a moment and not continue to run in front of her vehicle to my obvious death.
Outside of the running metaphor, if, hypothetically speaking, my mom is yelling at me for loading the dishes incorrectly again, my first thought is not that my mom hates me, it’s that when I load the dishwasher wrong, the dishes aren’t getting cleaned and have to be washed again, taking more water and time than they should. It’s a waste of money and resources. (For the record, I can neither confirm nor deny that me loading the dishes incorrectly is an ongoing struggle in the Carter household).
That is empathy. Putting yourself in the perspective of the other. When I load the dishes wrong again, I am ignoring the waste of resources that is important to my mom. An empathetic society puts other first. It gives you the chance of understanding others’ motivations, goals and challenges.
It’s also incredibly difficult and I will be the first to say that I have not come close to mastering it, but what’s important is that I’m working on it. Listening to others is the first step to being more empathetic. Truly hearing what others are saying can give you insight into their life.
Running makes me a better driver, but listening makes me a better, and more empathetic, person.