Earlier this summer, I went for a jog around Druid Lake, the reservoir which now has the potential to become so much more. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I love the park — a true Baltimore urban gem! That morning I left early; midway into my run, the sun was just coming up over the scenic expanse of the city, and I was in a cheery mood. People are often friendly in Druid Hill Park and the morning was replete with multiple enthusiastic “good mornings!” and “How ya doin’s?” — joggers passing each other in the amber morning light and cyclists cruising along the bike path. I couldn’t help but think, despite the challenges that come with city living, how blessed we are to have this tremendous resource — our “Central Park,” a true “third place” for all to share.
Then, I noticed something a little distressing: A young man with a jump rope had set himself up in the middle of the bike path, his exercise causing the cyclists and others to swerve around him. This was hardly an act of deep insensitivity; the bike-riders were not terribly inconvenienced. But this is precisely why I relate the story here. Given that the asphalt was probably 25 feet wide with plenty of room to jump rope not in the bike path, it was a true act of chutzpah for him to do so!
How often do we encounter people in our neighborhoods and communities who, unaware at best or inconsiderate at worst, seem to have little concept of what it means to share space! It seems to me a better approach to the urban public square is to be collaborative, moving nimbly and thoughtfully within the limited physical parameters. Torah offers a paradigm for this: nothing less than the creation of the world. God separates land and sea, makes distinctive mountains, valleys, oceans and rivers. God, “In the Beginning” creates particular species, areas and regions, discrete categories of space. Indeed, Torah seems to remind us, the human beings who follow, that occupying space is about finding ways to share. A deeper awareness of the other, his or her experience of the same space, leads to the inevitable conclusion: whatever human instinct causes us to live in tighter quarters with less space, there are ways we can do so with kindness and even grace.