Running in Fear

Ever feel like you’re somewhere where you shouldn’t be?

Yesterday I was running on the Coal & Coke Trail outside Mount Pleasant when I found myself in the midst of hunting season in Western PA. Orange-clad hunters with rifles patrolled the woods on either side of the trail.

This isn’t abnormal this time of year…after all, the PA hunting season is short and the interest, strong (i.e. supply and demand sends hunters and the hunting-inclined out in droves), and I’ve certainly seen hunters out and about during my daily runs.

But I felt particularly vulnerable this time around.

Yeah, I was wearing bright red and running in a b-line down a wide jogging trail, and I realize that hunters for the most part are very careful with their rifles. Most of the hunters I saw even acknowledged me with a hand wave or a tip of the cap.

Still, if former Vice President Dick Cheney can accidentally cap his friend while hunting in the woods, what’s to stop one of these hunters from taking me out in err?

But as much as I was uncomfortable with the situation (and believe me, I won’t run on the CCT–off limits to hunters and firearms as it is–until hunting season is over), I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to daily run through life’s trails in fear.

What is it like for children in Palestine, who must walk to and from school with peace activist accompaniment through hostile Israeli settlement zones?

What is it like for young girls in the Afar tribe of Ethiopia, who must approach adolescence and the violating practice of female circumcision?

What is it like for Ugandan boys at risk of being abducted and forced into military service?

What is it like for girls in India, Thailand, the Philippines and elsewhere who are forcibly trafficked into brothels as prostitutes?

What is it like for people living their daily lives in war-ravaged and poverty-stricken places like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan, and Colombia?

But lest we think these lives lived in fear aren’t lived close to home, take a look at our own situation here in North America:

What is it like for students who are gay and lesbian, fearful of bullying words and actions that can hurt or, worse yet, kill?

What is it like for undocumented immigrants who must live in the shadows, knowing that at any moment they may be separated from their family, community, and livelihood?

What is it like for high school youth to watch their classmates gunned down at school and in their neighborhood streets?

I’m not interested in debating politics or ethics here, and I’m certainly not writing this to call out hunters (honestly, their presence on the CCT seems suddenly insignificant).

But let’s pause for a moment and consider what we allow–and sometimes, create–to plague the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world. Because we need to respond with love and creativity…and with urgency.

They shouldn’t have to run in fear.

NOTE: Visit the links to organizations embedded here to learn about ways you can respond in specific ways to the needs of people mentioned in this post.

Comments (5)

  1. TimN

    This is a good reminder, Brian. It is rare that I feel real fear for my life in my daily existence. What is it like to feel that every day?

  2. BrianP

    It’s a good question worth asking. Action is often driven by empathy.

    The least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters are those who live on the margins, in fear of oppression, violence, exclusion. Ours is the calling to stand with them in solidarity and love.

  3. Tim Baer


    What’s does standing in solidarity look like? Recently, this site recommended to become an ally. I didn’t really understand that post, something about breathing in and out and feeling my defensiveness or something…

    There’s no doubt that the world is a scary place filled with violence for many people. How do we stop that?

    For the people in South America I continually insist that the best outcome for them would be to legalize drugs in The States and take the power out of the hands of the gangs that brutalize them. For Africa I am fascinated with Romer’s idea of Modern Colonialism. Of course neither of these ideas are possible because they are inherently unpopular. We can’t come to terms with the fact that people like drugs, even though we drug our own citizens with whatever doctors are allowed hand out (How about colon cancer by 20? Ask me all about it!). And colonialism between countries just brings to mind all sorts of bad images.

    In our kindness we just let it stay as it is. Lastly, as I continually say, all we can control is what we can control. There’s nothing to be done about things we cannot affect.

  4. BrianP

    @Tim B, thanks for asking about solidarity. I think solidarity starts with reaching out to the other, becoming available to bear their burdens and to collaborate with them and others to bring change, healing, and hope.

    I embedded links in my post to several different groups who are exemplifying solidarity and providing opportunities for us to join them in this act. Whether its through donating time or money, or simply becoming more aware or praying for the people they serve, you can stand in solidarity with others through these and other organizations.

    I realize it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the violence that plagues our world, but there are many ways we can respond to this. I believe that we are called to follow Jesus, opposing fear, oppression and hatred with love and creativity.

    For some ideas, check out Everyday Justice, by Julie Clawson, or the work of Tom and Christine Sine and the Mustard Seed Associates.

  5. Tim Baer

    This is interesting: Crime-Fighting Priest

Comments are closed.