Large, sprawling cities look like a mass of cement surrounded by a tangled web of highways and roads. My arrival in Dallas did nothing to dispel this notation.
Within minutes of landing, I rent a car and roam the web of highways and frontage roads seeking to avoid paying tolls while navigating from the airport to my hotel. Thank God for Google Maps and the “Avoid Tolls” option. Even so, I drive in constant fear of being forced through a toll gate by dedicated on/off ramps and left/right turn lanes.
Since I arrive at night, I don’t see the full extent of my cement cell. My hotel is surrounded by a parking garage, high rise office buildings, and a church that also looks like a high rise office building.
The congestion of the city and the long work day leave me exhausted when I return to the hotel the following evening. Yet, I still stop by the front desk and inquire about where people run. The woman says, “Go through the back of the hotel, through the church parking lot, and across a Park Central Drive to the park.”
I follow the instructions and am thankful for light traffic. The church parking lot is huge and Park Central Drive is a four land road with a divider and no crosswalk (Frogger anyone?). When I arrive a the park, I find the White Rock Creek Trail which is a paved bike path that runs along White Rock Creek. The trail is over 8 miles long.
As I start down the path, I am immediately impressed by the color “green”. Well, it’s not really green because it’s winter — probably more pale green, with mixed yellows and browns, but I can see the potential.
After a few turns, I stumble across views of the creek. In an instant, I am transported away from the city sprawl and immersed in the beauty of nature.
As the trail serpentines east and west, the late afternoon sun keeps changing the area’s feel. With the sun behind me, I see winter with flecks of green breaking through the yellow in anticipation on spring. Turning into the sun, I gaze at the long shadows and the coming sunset. If it weren’t for the occasional bike rider or other runners, I would imagine myself running alone through a secret forest hidden within the city.
At twilight, I leave the trail and work my way back across the four lane road and through the church parking lot. I have traded my woodlands for a cement forest. But now, I know that there is a heart of beauty under the thick skin of the city. I only needed to get beyond my first impression.
“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7