Look out and look up

"DON'T invade my personal space".

This message is being delivered clearly and emphatically by commuters on city trains and buses and by walkers and joggers everywhere.

I saw many examples in Sydney last week.

Large headphones and small earpieces say it; a bag placed on the empty seat beside the person on the train does it; avoiding eye contact declares it: "Keep your distance. I don't want to talk to you. I have no time for you. And I don't want you near me."

The avoidance of face-to-face contact and impersonal and inappropriate electronic messaging underscore messages of social rejection.

Media reports have included the young man talking on a mobile phone, meandering along the edge of a lonely train platform at night, stumbling, losing his balance and landing head-first on the tracks.

The incident, captured by a security camera, underscores the risks of a growing problem that safety experts are calling 'distracted walking'.

Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency departments have more than quadrupled in the past seven years.

Pedestrians listening to iPods while crossing busy city streets are being knocked down and killed or seriously injured in increasing numbers.

A 24-year-old woman walked into a power pole while sending a text message; a 28-year-old man was walking along a road when he fell into a drain while talking on his mobile phone; a 12-year-old boy was looking at a video game when he was clipped by a car as he crossed a street; a woman sending a text message while walking through a shopping centre tumbled into a large fountain in her path; and so on.

Authorities are struggling to figure out how to respond, and in some cases asking how far governments should go in trying to protect people from themselves.

In the US State of Delaware, road safety officials have opted for a public education campaign, painting signs on footpaths and at busy intersections urging pedestrians to "Look up!"

Life itself can be pretty distracting at times. It begs the question whether many of us may be walking through life too distracted and disconnected by the issues in our own little world to spot the spiritual hazards around us.

I believe we all need to spend significant time 'looking up' - in order to focus on God and the prescription he has written in the bible to ensure we can safely navigate the many dangers of life.


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