Franciscan Joy: Just a Closer Walk with Thee
BY FR. PAGE POLK, OFM
I have been walking for almost all of my life. One might say, “What a ‘Duh!’ statement.” I would offer that it is not a Duh statement.
Being able to walk is a privilege. Our family never had a car. My Mother never learned to drive. As a youngster, teenager, and young adult, I walked almost everywhere I went. Unless we rode the bus or someone gave us a ride, we (my two brothers and one sister) walked.
We walked to school (both elementary and high school), we walked to church, we walked to the grocery store, the barber shop, the bowling alley, the movies, and to the library. We walked to the neighborhood swimming pool. We walked everywhere.
I knew some children who could not walk. They could not run and play like my siblings and I did. During the early years of my walking, even though I did get tired, I knew I could be mobile, and walking was the vehicle by which this happened. I began to realize and appreciate that walking was a gift from God.
By walking, I gained (and continue to gain) a deep respect that my mind, body, and spirit are strengthened. How so?
My mind is sometimes focused, sometimes not. My mind can be crystal clear; it can be a blank slate. I often have a topic or issue on my mind. There may be a project on which I am working; a concern about a friend; or I’m thinking about a world in need of healing. The gift of walking often gives me some time and space to sort through what my mind is trying to process.
My body, even when it gets tired, is rejuvenated by walking. I feel better physically after walking. Exercise is a gift!
When I lived in Houston and served at the Texas Medical Center, there was a bayou across the street from our house. The short route around the bayou was 2¼ miles; the long route was 4 miles. I did a lot of “mind stuff” during those walks, and my body was grateful for the miles put on my tennis shoes.
I now use a pedometer, and I challenge myself every day to walk the recommended 10,000 steps. My mind and body benefit.
The third gift of walking is how it affects my spirit. I always take a prayer intention with me when I walk. Being conscious that God is always ready and glad to hear from me, I try to place myself in God’s loving presence, care and mercy when I walk.
The simple and complex beauty of creation calls me into wonder, awe, and thanksgiving. My spirit is blessed by the privilege of walking in the midst of what God has created and allows me to experience it via my senses.
Walking invites me into a closer communion with God. As I walk, I am reminded that my mind, body, and spirit are interwoven. Via walking, I am constantly aware that I have been walking most of my life – and am reminded what a gift it is.
I am grateful for having been walking for almost all my life. I hope I can continue to be able to do so. The privilege of walking and the strengthening of mind, body, and spirit are truly a triune gift.
(Fr. Page Polk is Director of Vocations and a member of the Provincial Council of St. John the Baptist Province.)