The Art of Falling Well

I dove into the pavement Saturday around 6:30 AM. I was half way through a four-mile run when I took the opportunity to glance at my map on my phone to see how far I had gone. The toe of my left shoe never saw the edge of the pothole.


I ground my right knee and shoulder into the pavement. It was so quick I barely remember falling. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I said as I rolled over and started checking myself out. No head injury, bleeding from my hands and knee, and everything around the left ankle in pain. I called my wife, woke her up from sleep, and she bundled the kid into clothes and came to get me. (BTW – the Find my iPhone app was a lifesaver here. She knew exactly where to find me.)

The abrasions didn’t bleed so much as ooze, so I was able to contain most of the drippage in the car. By the time we got home my ankle was about the size of a baseball. It wasn’t bruising, so I suspected it was a sprain instead of a break, but we decided to go to the ER anyway to check it out. We were out by lunchtime and they had given me something for pain that made me pretty woozy. So I have to keep weight off of it for a while and have been hobbling around on crutches.

Yes, I know this is Judo, but you know what’s about to happen.

They taught us how to fall well when I took Tae Kwon Do. The thing about falling is that it’s most dangerous when you don’t expect it. When you are sparring or playing contact sports, you expect to fall. What I did was the equivalent of texting while driving. My brain was elsewhere.

There are probably all sorts of metaphors and learning experiences I could take away from this experience, either about life or about planting a church in Birmingham. I do have a tendency to get caught up in big-picture abstractions, and little details (like a piece of cracked asphalt) can trip you up. Falling is easier when you expect it. Things like that. Those are all good lessons. But the most concrete, practical lesson I would like to convey to everyone I know is this: DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE. Heck, don’t text and walk. Seriously. I was just running when I glanced at my phone. I was not in a one-ton chunk of steel hurtling along at 60+ miles per hour. This crap happens to you when you least expect it. That’s why they call it an accident. If you meant to wreck I suppose they’d call it an on purpose. I’m usually pretty good about not attending my phone while I’m in the car, but I have gotten more slack over recent months. No more.

I’m glad I hit a pothole while running instead of a person while driving. If it took this trip to make an impact on me (literally and figuratively), I figure it was a good lesson. And even if I didn’t fall gracefully this time, if I learned a practical lesson, then I fell well.