What I Learned While Walking

A blog by Dea Podhajsky

Today my Spanish Duolingo streak reached 200 days. On 90% of those days I have also walked. I live at the base of the Superstition Mountains in an area our realtor described as horse properties. Lots are one acre and although most roads are paved, there are neither sidewalks nor streetlights. There have been days when I have seen no vehicles during my walk. Instead I encounter coyotes, deer, horses, javelinas, rabbits, lizards, birds, and other walkers

Walkers who walk on the wrong side of the road annoy me. The rule is clear. Pedestrians walk against traffic. There are reasons for this. Walkers can establish eye contact with an approaching motorist which increases their ability to make quick judgements which in turn enhances their safety. Researchers found that pedestrians walking against traffic have on average a 77 percent lower risk of being struck and injured by a car. Why then do people walk on the wrong side of the street? Are they reckless? Are they ignorant? Are they anarchists? Are they purposely trying to annoy me? Is one side of the road more esthetically pleasing to them than the other?

Perhaps it is the lack of distractions or the rhythmic, repetition of my footfalls but walking makes my mind go walkabout. One day my mind wandered from why not all people walk against traffic to a post that was trending on social media.

The post speculated on why some people fail to return their grocery carts to the designated collection point in the parking lot. The post theorized that what people did with their shopping cart was a test of whether they would do right in other circumstances without being forced. The tweet stated, “No one will punish you for not returning the shopping cart, no one will fine you, or kill you for not returning the cart . . . You must return the shopping cart because it is the right thing to do, because it is correct.”

For years I taught with a man who had vastly different views from mine on issues ranging from teaching practices to politics. He often reminded me during our discussions on civil rights, women’s rights, and students’ rights that with rights come responsibilities. Rights, according to my colleague, are freedoms we have that are protected by our laws, while responsibilities are duties or things that we should do to be good citizens or members of a community.

My walk offers me a great view of the Praying Hands formation in the Superstition Mountains. I always stop when I walk by to admire the beauty of God’s creation and to raise up the name of my secret prayer sister to the Lord. One such pause was the catalyst for another mind detour. Rights are a term for societies created by men. God, however, does not bestow us with rights; rather he gives blessings. The biggest blessing is his unconditional love.

Frequently, I have attended meetings with a man who was falsely accused and convicted of murder. He was released through the diligent work Arizona’s equivalent of the Innocence Project. At a recent event while discussing his life story and his current work of helping others who have suffered injustice he said, “I do not own my blessings.”

God’s unconditional love is our ultimate blessing. What then is our corresponding responsibility? The Bible provides an answer. In it we read, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”.

But there are other responsibilities we have for the blessings we have received that would be the secular equivalent of returning our shopping carts or walking on the correct side of the road. Stewardship is one of these. Churches depend on the generosity of their parishioners to provide money to support programs, to fund salaries, and to cover overhead.

I believe in free will. Walkers are not predestined to walk on the wrong side of the road. Fate does not determine whether people return their shopping cart. Why then do people act as they do? Scientists, writers, philosophers, and theologians have considered that question for centuries. Transfiguration is currently having its stewardship drive. We will be asked to pledge for next year. Pledges allow the vestry to construct a budget. Pledges income allows Transfiguration to continue to carry on God’s work. Not pledging, has no obvious negative consequences. You will continue to be welcomed and loved. You will still be a valued part of the church family.

Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, believed that when we act out of duty and do something simply because it is right, the deed then and only then has moral worth. Returning one’s shopping cart, walking against traffic, and filling out the pledge card fall into Kant’s definition of actions with moral worth. When the pledge card arrives, you will have a decision to make. As you reflect on whether to pledge or not think about the good that will come from you pledge, remember God’s blessings to you, and reflect on the moral duty of being part of a community. The choice as always is yours.

Juan 3:16 por Dios amó al mundo, que dio a su único hijo. The 200 days weren’t completely wasted.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 October 2020 21:01

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