If you are walking on a road with no cars on it, you might not realize that you need to move over to the side of the road. Perhaps you’ve never seen a car. You might have heard stories about cars, and about how dangerous they are, but you’ve never seen one yourself, so you don’t know for sure.
You might thing that a car wouldn’t run you down, maybe because you are special, or because you don’t believe in cars. You walk along a little further. You see a person on the side of the road. She’s been hit pretty badly by a car in the past, and she’s limping. She’s got a cane, but she’s still able to walk. She tells you about the car that hit her. She got away with just a broken leg that didn’t heal well. You may think, “Boy, is she unlucky, but that won’t happen to me.”
Then you walk a little further, and you see someone who is in a wheelchair. He tells you about the car that hit him. Maybe you start to think there might be something to this “car” thing that you should take seriously – but you still haven’t seen one yet.
Then you walk a little further, and you start to see someone lying down on the road. As you look closer, you realize that he is dead. As you look ahead, you see more and more people who are hobbling, or in wheelchairs, or dead.
Very far ahead you see people who are OK. They are not only walking, they are running. They are enjoying this road. They are on the side, out of the path of the cars. They decided to take the warnings seriously.
You can’t get off this road. But you can stay out of the way of the cars. The cars are cancer, diabetes, heart disease. They are coming. They are big, and they hit hard.
American suffer from way too many preventable diseases. We eat too much in general, and too much of the wrong thing. We drown our sorrows with our friend Jack. We were sold the image of the Marlboro Man, all tough and rugged. He didn’t look so tough in the cancer ward, hooked up to oxygen and chemo drugs.
A car is coming. Get out of the way. You know what is necessary. We know all the don’ts. Don’t smoke, don’t eat too much meat (if at all), don’t eat fried foods. Drop caffeine and processed sugar. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
But what do you do instead? Those are things we used to comfort ourselves. Learn anger management. Breathe deeply and consciously. Take yoga. Go for a walk. Take up a hobby. Journal. Practice compassion and forgiveness – towards yourself and others. Eat vegetables. Get enough sleep. Make time to spend with friends.
This can be a wonderful journey or a terrible one. The choice is yours. The cars are coming. Choose wisely. You aren’t special, and you aren’t lucky. A car will hit you if you aren’t mindful. Don’t wake up ten years from now and wonder how you got so sick and out of shape. Take the time now.