The Kindness of Walking
I needed to go to BDO bank today to make a downpayment deposit and to send a gift. Being a trafficphobe and being fortunate enough to have a branch of that bank nearby, I decided to walk rather than drive. And what a brilliant decision that was.
From 1:00pm to about 1:40pm today, I was blessed with a wonderful 40 minutes of my day. It was a brief walk filled with kindness and a precious respite from the bustle of the holiday season.
Though the sun was out, the wind was blowing nicely and keeping temperatures fairly cool and pleasant. With an umbrella in one hand and a box of mamon (Filipino sponge cake) in the other, I took a 5-minute walk from my house to the village gate. Since I was on foot and in no rush, I was able to stop by the security/reception area to give the box of mamon to one of the guards as we greeted each other Merry Christmas. As I walked by the guard manning the boom barrier for the village entrance, he and I also exchanged Good Afternoons and Merry Christmases.
As I continued my short walk to the bank, I saw three feral cats taking turns eating food from a bowl placed on the sidewalk between two concrete posts. I saw that it was a native woven bowl lined with banana leaf and filled with some rice and meat. Someone had purposely placed food there for these feral cats.
I proceeded to walk to the bank and was there within 15 minutes of leaving my house. With the heavy traffic and full parking I had seen along my way, it would have taken me maybe 20-30 minutes if I were driving. My business at the bank was done in 15 minutes. Though I had to stand in queue for about 10 minutes, I wasn’t feeling stressed or rushed. And while there, I witnessed two ladies, probably regular bank clients, giving Christmas gifts to smiling and grateful bank employees.
A relaxed 10-minute walk and I was back at home. During the walk home, I was thinking about what Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ said in his homily during last Sunday night’s mass in the Church of the Gesu. He talked about asking ourselves what is the source of our joy during this Christmas season, and how we can find it through having a serene attentiveness to reality.
My brief experience of walking instead of driving today has given me a glimpse of serene attentiveness to reality. When I am not in my car, I am free to walk among people, to hear the street noises, to feel the breeze and the warmth, to stop and witness sights of beauty and and acts of kindness. We know that walking is a kindness to the earth, to the community and to the body. Yet in our rush to get here and there, in our car-centric societies, we forget that walking is also a kindness to the soul. It is a simple yet powerful way to give and receive kindness and to find a peaceful connection to our souls and to reality.
Not only during the busy holiday season but throughout the year, may we make the time to walk more, to be kinder to our world, our bodies and our souls.