I saw this quote from comedian Stephen Wright: “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time,” and so to prove the point I asked the mapping app on my phone to give me a route for walking from our house in Midland, Texas, to our daughter’s house in Mansfield, Texas, 319 miles. The app said it would take 4 days and 13 hours to walk. I assume that does not include rest breaks, eating, or sleeping. Like the man said, everywhere is within walking distance. Which reminded me of one of our great family stories, a vacation to Washington DC in 2002. In order to save money I found a hotel outside the actual city and planned for all of us to ride the subway, the Met, from our hotel to the center of DC. When I phoned to make the reservations I asked, “How far is your hotel from the nearest Met station?” The young man answered confidently and convincingly, “It’s within walking distance.”
But our first morning we discovered our hotel was a solid thirty-minute drive from the station. And most of the road had no shoulder or sidewalk, so walking alongside was dangerous if not impossible. Hardly what a reasonable person would call “walking distance.”
The other part of the story, and an added observation that might explain the “walking distance” misunderstanding, was the gentleman who checked us into the hotel when we first arrived. He was the slowest person any of us had ever seen.
I don’t mean slow in the sense of dim-witted, although we had our suspicions. I mean slow in that every single one of his actions, like typing on his keyboard, moving his hand from keyboard to mouse, reading data from his computer screen, was so slow it was all we could do to keep from laughing. It was all we could do to keep our balance and not fall to the floor. He was so slow he was even slower than that. I don’t think anyone could be that slow on purpose, even if he was being forced to give us the room he’d hoped to keep for his fiancé when she arrived from France and it was the only room left and if he didn’t have a room for her she would fly back home and the wedding would be off. He was slower than that.
It occurred to us that maybe he was the one who told me over the phone that the Met station was within walking distance. Maybe he lived in a wrinkle of space-time so that normal distance and normal pace were different for him than for everyone else in the world.
I’ve been thinking about walking a lot, lately, being between knee preplacement No. 1 (right) and knee replacement No. 2 (left). One of the reasons I opted for this procedure was so that I could enjoy walking again. And today, three weeks after No. 1, I’m already walking even better than I expected. Better, in fact, than before surgery, which I suppose, was the point of replacement.
I recently finished a book by Jim Forest titled, The Road to Emmaus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life, and he wrote: “Walking is a physical activity that is meant to have spiritual significance.”
Walking is so simple and common, and one of the earliest things we learn how to do as human beings. We learn to walk long before we learn to talk, or go to the potty, or find our own food.
For me, walking includes running and hiking … at least, the spiritual significance of it. Some of my richest spiritual conversations with God have come while walking, hiking, or running on a dirt trail.
Forest wrote, “Unimpeded walking is one of life’s most ordinary, least expensive, and deeply rewarding pleasures … Putting one foot in front of the other and going forward can provide a foretaste of heaven.”
Well, walking didn’t feel like heaven a few weeks ago when we spent seven hours on the medieval stone streets of Florence. It was fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it felt far from heaven.
However, I can already see a brighter and deeper future ahead of me. I am glad to be walking again. Ready to converse with God again on the trails.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32