THE PATHS OF LIFE
The sun had just risen above the horizon as we were headed north on R75 towards Uitenhage, South Africa. The few wispy clouds in the broad, expansive and inviting sky, exhibited a faint pink hue which invited a peaceful tranquillity to your soul.
Behind us the city of Port Elizabeth was just beginning its new day. And the two-lane road that paralleled us to the east, was packed with south bound traffic carrying yawning, sleepy-eyed and coffee slurping people who were, assuredly and half-heartedly, contemplating the day ahead of them. They had just left their family, who were themselves most likely scurrying about as their new day dawned. Many of their children, who they had just left, were now walking, running, jumping in a playful way on both sides of the highway. They were an attractive bunch all dressed in their school uniforms; the girls in maroon dresses and a white blouse while the boys wore blue trousers, white shirts and blue blazers.
Adults were also walking along the highway. Some walked as with purpose as if they had a specific destination to reach, while others, if they too had a destination in mind, showed less determination to reach it. Some of the adults were running as if they were in training for an upcoming marathon event. These observances were not uncommon to witness; there is, in that area, a particularly long, continuous slope with an approximately 8 to 10 % grade where it is common to see individuals running up it; Never running down it but rather always up it.
We, ourselves, were caught up in the process of contemplating the day ahead of us as we casually observed all these things. No particular thing stood out or registered in our minds as we had seen this scenario many times as we headed to an assignment. Ahead about a ¼ of a mile, I noticed a police vehicle parked tangentially off the highway. This observance too never signalled to me anything out of the ordinary, police vehicles were often seen rambling here and there or parked in random locations. To the left was located one of the local townships and to the right, a small shopping center.
Immediately, to my left, I noticed two men running. These men, although they were running fast, were not the marathon type. They ran as if they were not sure where to go, dodging here and there. And, although I never paid much attention to it at the time, but as I reflect back, they acted as if they were trying to evade something. Their body language suggested that they were searching for something or were desperate or trapped. Their dress was not indicative of anything. They both wore dungarees and a white T-shirt with some sort of writing or symbol on it – the same as countless others wear daily.
It was only after hearing the sharp whap-whap-whap sound in rapid succession that I became alert to the fact that something out of the ordinary was taking place. Simultaneously, Angie and I looked at each other and asked, were those gun shots that we just heard?
At that moment, my eyes fixed on a police officer running on the opposite side of the highway from his vehicle but on the same side as the two men. The officer was about 300 feet behind the men and had his pistol in his hand. He definitely was not a marathon runner. He was on the short side and way too much out of shape to pose much of a threat of physically apprehending the two men ahead of him. Thus, he resorted to relying on firing his pistol to persuade the two to stop. I don’t know if the two men, trying to escape him, mentally evaluated the situation or not, but had they done so, I suppose that any fear that may have been instilled in them by the gun shots would have quickly dissipated as they considered the accuracy of this highly out of shape man, who was puffing and wheezing and firing his pistol which was bobbing around like a cork in the ocean during a hurricane, while he was running.
Whether the men were apprehended or not, I do not know as we continued our own pursuit down the road soon forgetting the mini-drama behind us. However, reflecting back on the event, my mind wanders down many paths as I consider the two men. For instance, did they have families at home? Why were they running? Did they attempt to rob a store/somebody? Were they hardened criminals or just someone caught up in a moment of weakness? Were they scared or unintimidated, bold, cocky, thinking about how they were going to be able to boastfully tell their story to others of how they evaded a police officer that was shooting at them? Were they repentful, wishing they had the ability to turn back the clock and wipe out their actions of a few moments before?
In each of our lives, we have many choices of paths to follow. However, we are the only ones that can choose which one we will take. Will that choice be based on immediate gratification or will our decision be based upon things that will bring us eternal joy? “All of life is a journey which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.”
“The future lies before you, like paths of pure white snow. Be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”
(the quotes are from anonymous authors)