Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Most Thankful People in the Bible: A Thanksgiving Top Ten

Thanksgiving (last week) got me thinking about thanking, particularly from a biblical standpoint. Honestly, there was a minute or two earlier in the week when I thought I might be called upon to facilitate a Thanksgiving-themed devotional at church. So, my mind started working. Why not simply consider folks from scripture who were especially thankful—thankful for God, thankful for life, thankful for healing, etc.? This Top Ten is my attempt to highlight the most thankful from the Bible. Ranking them wasn’t necessary, I know, and I certainly wouldn’t have for a devotional, but this blog entry’s different. Gotta make it interesting/controversial, right?

#10 Jonah (Jonah 2)
Of course the first word that comes to mind when we think of Jonah is anything but “thankful.” It’s more like fearful, bitter, pompous. But have you read Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish lately? We tend to think he had it coming. Trying to run away from God. Serves him right to get sucked up by a whale of some kind. But he actually didn’t have it coming—salvation, that is. He deserved a grave at the bottom of the ocean. But God rescued him and Jonah recognized that. Filled, seemingly with thankfulness, Jonah confesses, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” Later, he says (in contrast to idolaters), “I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you (God).” Like so many people, Jonah had to (first) get to one of his lowest points…only to be brought up out of it…to be filled (finally) with thanksgiving. He definitely seems to make the Top Ten…barely.

#9 One of Ten Lepers Healed (Luke 17)
It’s like a Top Ten within a Top Ten. Only the thanksgiving focus in Luke 17 isn’t on ten, it’s on one. Ten lepers encounter Jesus. All ten seemed to believe that Jesus was pretty much who He claimed to be. So they cried out to him for healing. “Master, have pity on us!” Jesus asks them to visit the priests, and on their way they were made whole. No more leprosy! Only one responded with a spirit of thankfulness. A Samaritan. He “threw himself” at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Even Jesus seemed surprised there weren’t a few more of the former lepers at His feet. “Were not all ten cleansed?,” He asks. “Where are the other nine?” This man stood out from the crowd because of his thankfulness. I must confess that he puts me to shame. How often do you or I plea for a blessing from God? Praying numerous times a day, perhaps. And when the blessings come, we might think to tell Him thanks, what, once or twice tops, if at all. Unlike Jonah, this man probably deserves a higher “thankfulness” ranking than I’m giving him.

#8 Moses (Exodus 14-15)
If there’s anyone who had something (many things) to be thankful for, it was Moses. Has anyone enjoyed such a special relationship with the creator of the universe? It’s hard to find, though, very much in-your-face thanksgiving on the part of Moses. One exception, of course, is the “song” attributed to Moses in Exodus 15. With all the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea fresh on his mind, Moses (along with the Israelites) sang a song—a song that doesn’t mention specifically the word “thanksgiving,” but one that has thanksgiving implications on seemingly every line. I mean, couldn’t you insert a parenthetical “Thank you, Lord!” at the end of just about every line? “Pharoah’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. (Thank you, Lord!)” “Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy. (Thank you, Lord!)” “Who among the gods is like you? (Thank you, Lord!)” And so on and so forth.

#7 The Man Formerly Known as “Legion” (Mark 5)
Before he met Jesus, the man lived among tombs. He’d been chained who knows how often. No chain was strong enough, though. No one could subdue him. He cried out night and day, cutting himself with stones. Not because of some chemical imbalance, but because of an impure spirit living within him. Jesus comes and has a conversation with the spirit(s). He sends them into a herd of pigs. The pigs run off a cliff into a lake and drown. The man is himself again—calm, dressed (evidently he wasn’t quite dressed previously). The eyewitnesses are so blown away, they ask Jesus to leave. The man, though, feels just the opposite. He wants to stick to Jesus like glue. A big reason, seemingly, is because of his thankfulness for what Jesus had done. Jesus, instead, encourages the man to return home. The man does and can’t seem to stop telling people about Jesus and what he’d done for him. I’m sure it was a thankful testimony, indeed.

#6 Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Luke 1-2)
I’m not sure exactly how thankful Mary was when she first heard about her virgin pregnancy. Perhaps, not much. Everything seemed to change, though, when she visited with Elizabeth and heard more than once from her how “blessed” she really was. One verse later (in Luke), Mary breaks out in praise and thanksgiving, saying things like, “(God) has done great things for me!” It’s because of this unmistakable, not to mention lengthy, statement of outright thanksgiving that Mary makes the list. No question.

#5 The Woman Who Anointed Jesus (Luke 7)
Can a person be too thankful? From God’s perspective, no. From man’s perspective, maybe. That sort of seems to be the case in Luke 7. A woman known as “sinful” just lavishes love upon Jesus, particularly his feet…and it must’ve made the onlookers squirm. She cries so much that her tears (of thanks?) wet Jesus’ feet. She dries them with her what was likely long hair. She then kisses them (for who knows how long), and finally pours perfume on them. You could call it a “love” fest. In fact that’s the term that comes up more than once in the episode. But just think how much love and thanksgiving are intertwined in life. It’s hard to separate them, actually. I like to view this scene as a love scene with a whole bunch of thanksgiving mixed in. She’s obviously responding to Jesus’ (a holy person of God) apparent acceptance of her (a not so holy person). The response is loving, yes…but it’s also tremendously thankful. Her over-the-top thanksgiving convicts me. It has no fear. No boundaries. It’s like she just puts herself out there and thinks, “Who cares what anyone else thinks?” And what's more...she's the only representative in this list who speaks no words, sings no songs, writes no psalms. She's a doer, not a talker. She lets her actions proclaim her thankfulness. Who needs to speak? Just do.

#4 The Father of the Prodigal (Luke 15)
The son gets all the attention, usually. But not today. He’s not the one who seems most thankful in the story. We can assume he was grateful, but it’s not crystal clear from the text. What is clear from Luke 15 is that his father was. Scholar types who know what they’re talking about talk about how undignified/embarrassing it would’ve been for a Palestinian-type father to hike up his robe and run to meet a son who’d pretty much said “drop dead” when he asked for an early inheritance. Like the “sinful woman” (above), the father doesn’t seem to care what any of his neighbors think. He’s thankful to see his son again. He proclaims, “…this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” That’s just about the most thankful statement from scripture, it seems to me. What’s especially encouraging is knowing who the father figure is supposed to represent—God, Himself, right? Doesn’t that suggest that God is one of the most thankful people in scripture? Goodness knows He has a lot to not be thankful for, when it comes to the way we behave (i.e., misbehave). But this parable implies that there are some things, some events, some turn-arounds that He is most certainly thankful for.

#3 Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4)
I love surprise entrants like Nebuchadnezzar. His life (overall) wasn’t one of thankfulness—not to the one true God, that’s for sure. But when it comes to thankful “moments,” there aren’t many that rival the moment Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity/humanness was restored. He recounts his miraculous downturn and upturn in Daniel 4. His story begins on the roof of his royal palace when he says to himself, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built…by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Basically, his story begins with a surprising amount of “I” and “my.” It ends, though, with a lot of God. How is that possible? God reduces Nebuchadnezzar to a wild animal. He lived remotely, alone. He ate grass like an ox. Dew would accumulate on his back each morning. His “hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” After Nebuchadnezzar “raised his eyes toward heaven,” God restored him. Then…and this is how he makes the list…he “praised the Most High.” Similar to love (discussed above), humility, like the kind Nebuchadnezzar experienced, is often wrapped up inextricably with thankfulness. I personally see thanksgiving hiding behind his words of praise and respect for God (4:34-35). And why wouldn’t there be, after the ultra-lowly state he’d been in?

#2 Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2)
You were waiting for her, weren’t you? Her name is practically synonymous with thankfulness. Out of desperation, she asks the Lord for a son. Not only that, she basically says up front, “God, if you answer my prayer now, here’s how I’ll thank you later.” She commits her yet-to-be-born son to God’s service. “I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life,” she promises. In case you didn’t fully appreciate those words….that’s called extreme thanks. Of course, Hannah’s prayer (of thanks) is what we typically think of when we think of Hannah’s response to God’s gift. With language like, “I delight in your deliverance,” and “my heart rejoices in the Lord,” Hannah expresses pure praise. And speaking of synonyms…is praise synonymous with thanks? If so, Hannah’s place in the Thanksgiving Top Ten is definitely top tier.

#1 David (2 Samuel 6)
It’s not a fair fight. David composed so many psalms, how can anyone else compete? Not that all his psalms are thanksgiving psalms, but still. When it comes to expressions of thanksgiving that are obvious, clear, and preserved for all time, David leads the way. What’s obvious is that David had an unprecedented awareness of God’s blessing, protection, presence, and judgment in his life. If he defeated a giant, it was because of God. If his army was victorious, it was because of God. If his nation enjoyed peace, it was due to God’s protection. If he endured pain, it was caused by God. That kind of awareness will naturally lead to thanksgiving more often than not. It’s an awareness I need…perhaps you, too. Without a doubt, some of the psalms can give us a glimpse into David’s thankfulness. I think, though, that one of the best glimpses is an event from his life—something someone else recorded about him. It was the time he brought back the ark of God to its rightful place, among its rightful people. If you remember, David had tried to reclaim the ark before, and it cost Uzzah his life. The second attempt was different…certainly a more thankful occasion. With the ark in the house of Obed-Edom, David’s assistants picked up the ark, took six steps, didn’t die (like Uzzah), causing David to sacrifice a bull and a calf to God (out of thanks?). Next thing you know, David is “dancing before the Lord with all his might.” If only he’d danced with (only) most his might. His leaping and dancing “before the Lord” was too much for Michal, his wife. She scolds him later for “uncovering” himself before others, using words like “shameful” to describe his behavior. David basically tells her that he was dancing for an audience of one and that’s all that mattered. It was before God he danced—the One who’d “chosen” him, “appointed” him. With all that in mind, David “celebrated before the Lord.” The “Michal” in me wants to ask again, Can a person be too thankful? Can you celebrate God too much? Evidently, David didn’t think so. He let all his thankfulness come flying out. Held none of it back…come what may. Thanks be to God that he did.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I normally try to recount events from my walk TO work, not FROM it. Sometimes, though, I just can’t help myself. On the way home from work today, I walked a quarter of a block—down one of the busiest streets in town—in an embrace with another man! I didn’t initiate it, mind you…I was just following his lead. His arm was across by shoulders & mine was across his. This “other man” is one of those guys who literally couldn’t care less what others think of him or whether someone’s staring or whatever. It’s just the way he’s wired, but not me. His fearlessness rubbed off on me a little while we walked. At one point I almost thought, “So what if someone drives by and sees us.” That thought quickly faded when a couple of guys (blue collar types) pulled up in their work truck at the corner we were approaching. They hardly noticed us, if at all. Whew.

At the corner, my friend had to continue straight ahead and I had to “hang a ralphie.” That’s when our hug-on-the-go ended. Two seconds later an older couple in a truck pulled up and asked if I knew how to get to Mifflin (a small town about 20 minutes away). I said, “Uh, let me see. Um, I sure do.” I gave them some directions but mustn’t have been convincing. I’d been talking through the window with the woman. The man (behind the wheel) was obviously not going to put his trust in someone who paused so long before getting on with it. He basically said to his wife, “Let’s go up here to Main Street and see what we can find out.” What’s wrong with that, you say? Main Street was in the exact opposite direction I suggested they go. Oh, well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sweaty Protest

I never walk home for lunch when it’s in the upper 90s. Why? One word: sweat. I’d have to change clothes, towel off, sit in front of a fan (on High) for 5 minutes…then squeeze in lunch before heading back to the library. I always wimp out in August, getting as many rides to and fro as possible—usually from Julie. She actually offered me one today…just before noon. In fact, I had even asked her for one when I left the house this morning. “Hon,” I said. “It’s gonna be close to 100 today, so I might need a ride home later, if possible.” No sweat for me.

My attitude changed, though, at the office…when I almost accidently discovered that 54 years earlier—on this day—tons of people were voluntarily walking through the streets of Montgomery, Alabama in 99 degree weather. They were walking to work. Walking to school. Walking home for lunch. Walking when they could’ve been riding. It was the latter (hotter) half of the Bus Boycott. Sure, a number of people hitched rides from friends and passersby. But most walked. And, I imagine, most sweated.

In their honor, I decided to walk home (instead of ride) for lunch. On my way I contemplated—tried as hard as I could to feel—what it would’ve been like to be an African-American man or woman walking in protest of racial injustice. I wondered if it wouldn’t have felt quite as hot, knowing that your reasons for walking were so noble. Would 99 degrees have felt more like 95? Or would it have seemed hotter…as you thought of the bigotry that led to the boycott & not knowing if the peaceful protest would even make a difference? For me, today, the walk seemed a bit cooler. It almost seemed shorter. It even seemed slightly less sweaty. I can only hope it was the same for those admirable souls (soles) in the Summer of 1956.

P.S. Too hot to pick up trash. :-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Break

Some may walk more in the Summer--I walk less. I do work less, which is part of it. But it's mainly because I simply can't take the heat. The morning commute to work is bearable...the sun's not too high. The walk home for lunch is another story, though. Thankfully, the library's so cool in the Summer that it takes me about a block to thaw out. That still leaves 3 more blocks. By the time I get home, I have a nice glaze all over. It's kind of a bummer, but I can handle being sweaty at home. The office is where I really dread that sticky feeling. That’s why I drive back after lunch in the Summer, or perhaps get a ride from Julie. I say all this to say…I have a lot less to blog about in the Summer.

As many of you know, I took my first trip out of North America this Summer—to Ethiopia. What for? A sweet, little girl who needed a home. While in her country, I observed an amazing amount of walking. It was even a bit unsettling. I’m used to deserted sidewalks & plenty of room on the roads for cars. Not in Ethiopia. There were people everywhere. If you started on a walk somewhere, you basically had to merge into the foot traffic. The personal space I’m used to here is virtually non-existent in the streets of Addis Ababa. Even in the countryside—seemingly in the middle of nowhere—there were walkers. Who knows where they came from or where they were going?

According to a Wikipedia source, there’s only 1 car per 1,000 people in Ethiopia, which puts them virtually at the bottom of any cars-per-people list you’ll find. That’s compared to America’s #1 ranking with a ratio of more than 700 per 1,000. In a nutshell, when it comes to walking wherever it is you need to go, Ethiopia is the polar opposite of where I live. It was truly eye-opening to see (first hand) such a place. It’s a scene I’ll try to recall this coming school year whenever I feel like walking to work is weird. I’ll remind myself, it’s not weird…it’s just foreign.

P.S. I tried to make up for lost time this morning by grabbing three day's worth of litter: a plastic lid from a soft drink cup, a cellophane wrapper of some sort, and a package of Smarties candy in mint condition.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


If you’ve been following along these past few weeks, you’ve heard me raving about the sun…even throwing caution to the wind in terms of skin cancer, UVs, etc. Well, no more! Call me fickle, but the sun actually caused me to sweat this morning. I wasn’t power walking. I wasn’t running horribly late, like yesterday. Just calmly walking. But when I got to the library, I had sweat on the top of my head. I’m pretty sure the sun’s to blame. It had a baking feel today, as opposed to a basking one.

I got a honk from a passerby in a white car. I waved but couldn’t at all make out who it was. Honks from passersby (to date): 7
I also spotted a husband/wife walking to work/school. That brings my Fellow walker sightings total up to 25.

P.S. In the alleyway behind the drugstore, I found a plastic wrapper for a plastic utensil from Subway. I honestly think that if fast food restaurants ever become extinct, so would 90% of litter.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Late, Late, Late

I’m at least slightly late to work almost every day. But sometimes I’m so late that all I can think about on my walk to work is how late I am. Like today. I took my late, as the bird flies, route to campus this morning. It’s a shame, too. It was such a perfect morning weather-wise. I’ve come to realize that a frantic walk to work…keeping it as short and sweet as possible…is hardly worth doing.

P.S. I passed by a used tissue on the sidewalk this morning. I’ve been using a lot of tissues myself this past week & know how gross some of them can be…so I turned my nose up and walked on by. What I didn’t walk on by was the empty pack of (Sweet Peppermint) Stride gum I found down the hill from the front of the library. How gross can a pack of gum be?

Monday, May 3, 2010

After the Flood

I wish the Bible talked more about how much Noah and his family enjoyed life after the flood. During this morning’s walk, I think I had at least a tiny idea of what they felt. This weekend was (seemingly) non-stop clouds, rain, flooding, thunder, warnings, etc. After two days of it, I was worn out. On my walk to work, I was more thankful than I’ve been in a long time for the sun & dry ground. Just think how thankful Noah must’ve been after the skies cleared. If he hadn’t been such a man of faith, he might’ve become a full-blown sun worshipper like the ancient Egyptians. All I know is, I rarely “live” for Mondays. it’s usually the weekend I look forward to…but knowing today (Mon.) would be a “normal” weather day made me thankful…even as I made my way to work. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 23

P.S. I found an empty container of KoolAid Burst on the side of the road behind the library. One of these days I’ll say a word about why I stopped, stooped, and threw away that piece of plastic.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hands Free?

According to Oprah, today is No Phone Zone Day. It’s just one aspect of her fight against people driving while distracted with cell phones, texting, and the like. I’m proud of her for taking a stand on this issue. With her clout, there just might be a major shift in thinking coming soon. So, in honor of NPZD, I decided to observe all drivers who passed me by on my walk to work…to see how many were on the phone. I spotted 24 drivers, not counting the pickup with the completely blacked-out windows, and only 2 were on the phone. Oprah would be proud.

P.S. I found a half-full water bottle in the parking lot of the campus art building. It’s currently in a trash can at my feet.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Well, it’s time for me to make the sun-soaked walk home for lunch. The bad news is…according to the EPA, the UV Index for my town is 8, which is very high. I forgot that there might be some drawbacks to walking to (and from) work vs. being in a car (convertibles not included). And these drawbacks are potentially life-threatening. I mean, what good is enjoying birds chirping and running into old friends if you get skin cancer & die an early death in the process?

Lunchtime is, of course, the worst. Even the EPA says, “between 10:00am and 4:00pm” is the worst time for UVs. So it’s something I don’t worry about at the beginning or end of my workday. I’m somewhat prepared today, though. I happened to remember to use some sunscreen on my (bald) head and my nose. Hopefully, it’ll take my 8 UV concentration down a few pegs…to a 4 or 5. Regardless, I’ll be walking from one shady spot to another…all along the way to the house.

Wait! Good news! I just got a call from my family who’s out on the town. They’re coming to give me a ride home. The UVs will just have to wait another day. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 21

P.S. This morning I found a 3-inch piece of foam pipe insulation behind the library. It was probably left behind by some utility folks yesterday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social Capital #4

They say that walking around your neighborhood can increase social capital, which makes sense. The odds of you saying “Hi.” to a neighbor in his/her front yard would logically go way down if you were closed up in a car, driving by. I pursued this idea for a whole week in early March…thus the 4th Social Capital installment in late April. Yesterday, on my walk home for lunch I ran into someone who (I learned recently) will be leaving the university at the end of the semester. I planned on shaking her hand and telling her how much I’d miss her dedication & hard work, etc. The handshake turned into a quick hug. She’s probably giving everyone hugs these days. I mentioned that I hardly ever see her, so I should probably say “goodbye” when I had the chance. It was a brief but meaningful exchange that would not have happened had I been driving.
And then, this morning, just as I was closing the front door behind me, I noticed one of the school’s professors walking by my house. I asked him if he was in a hurry & he said no. So we walked and talked. I could count on two hands the number of times I’ve walked with someone on my way to work…not counting my wife and kids. I think I could do it every day …especially if most days were as pleasant as today. Of course, I couldn’t do weird stuff like walk past the school (and back around the opposite side) to get some extra exercise. I can’t think of anyone who’d put up with that. So, obviously, we took a fairly direct route to campus. It was our version of a carpool, I suppose…and I enjoyed every step of the way. Fellow walker sightings (to date): 19

P.S. Where has all the trash gone in town? It’s been slim pickin’ this week…not that I mind. Yesterday all I found was the very end of a very pink balloon. Today, it was an empty hot sauce (mild) packet from Taco Bell. Both items were roughly right behind the library.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I walked thankfully to work this morning—thankful that the weather was so fallish that no mosquito would be caught dead flying around in it. Mostly, though, I was thankful for a group of loving, Christ-like people who (evidently) think of me, my wife, and kids as family. The feeling is definitely mutual. This is a church family I’m referring to. It seems you never really know how much you’re loved until you have a need and you wait to see who’ll show up to actually help with that need. Our church family (seemingly all of them) showed up…in such a sacrificial way! The thankful feelings were so fresh on my mind as I walked this morning because all that generosity came to a head last night.

The One I’m most thankful to is God Himself who formed these people into people who would do the selfless things they’ve done. His hand was definitely working in and through our need and especially in the response to that need.

P.S. Picked up yet another red, Sonic straw. This time, from the grassy slope behind the library.

Friday, April 23, 2010


As you may’ve noticed, I like counting things on my walk to work. It’s somewhat of a hobby. For this blog, I’ve counted paces, colors, waves, and clotheslines. What next?! Gardens?

I took the long route this morning, which is rapidly becoming my “normal” route. Along the way, I took note of every garden I passed. Not the floral kind, but the vegetable variety. There were four, including one that took up about 90% of a backyard. Very impressive. This is someone who must have a lot more time on their hands than I do…AND someone who doesn’t have kids. The yard is, now, definitely not conducive to a good game of tag.

Not only do I count a lot…but I also try to make mention of any event or encounter along the way that would not have happened (likely) if I’d been driving rather than walking. Encounters like the brief one I had with an old friend who was out walking for exercise. I asked him not to stop or slow down…lest he ruin the aerobic…but he did for a couple of seconds. Just enough time to get in a good handshake and a warm hello. I really miss seeing him. While we were talking, two Canadian geese flew directly overhead. Fairly low, too. Honking away the whole time. I was truly in awe. They just came out of nowhere. In a car, I may have seen the geese but would've missed out on the honking. I'm glad I didn't.

P.S. The goldmine for litter in our little town has to be the alley behind the drugstore. I can always count on something being there that needs picking up…like the receipt I nabbed this morning (from, you guessed it, the drugstore).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not-So-Earthy Commute

It’s Earth Day…and I unintentionally celebrated by walking to work through the most concrete, asphalt-filled part of town. I had to drop the van off at the shop before I headed to work. The shop’s roughly 4 blocks from campus. The problem with those 4 blocks is that it’s right along Main Street. No trees. No grass. Wall-to-wall storefronts, basically. The highlight? The downtown Cash Express location…with its balloons. I never knew I had it so good…walking through tree-lined neighborhoods, for the most part, every day. I’ll try never to take the natural aesthetics for granted again—not on Earth Day or any other day.

On my drive to the shop I said hello to a couple of fellow walkers who (rightfully) gave me a hard time for not walking myself. They said they’d let me off the hook this once. I’m proud of ‘em. Fellow Walker sightings (to date): 18. At lunchtime I was offered a ride to the my boss...I accepted. Ride Offers (to date): 8.

P.S. My commute did have several litter-removal opportunities, though. I took advantage of one. It was a fairly large blue post-it note…with the phone number for someone named Abby. I found it in the alley behind the downtown drug store. One of these days I’ll explain why I bothered bending over and picking it up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Buffer Zone?

Weather Report: Very cool. I would’ve worn one of my lightweight jackets had they not (both) been hanging on a coat rack at the library. I abandoned them a week or so ago. It was borderline uncomfortable, but took the long route anyway. On the way, I passed right in front of a landmark that catches my attention 7 out of 10 mornings…the house we almost bought when we moved to town (see picture top, left). After doing a little house hunting (almost 9 years ago), it was obvious that only two houses were viable candidates. The one we didn’t take (the one I walk past most days) is the one that’s since been purchased by the university. I believe interior design classes meet there now. Living there would’ve cut my commute time to campus by 95%...because it happens to be across the street from campus. I’m glad we’re not that close, actually. There’d be…as Seinfeld would say, “no buffer zone.” Also, I’d miss out on the walk to work I’ve grown to love.

On this morning’s walk, I got a ride offer & a honk to boot. It was a great way to start the week. Honks from Passersby (to date): 6
Ride Offers (to date): 7. I actually forgot to mention a ride offer from last week (maybe Tuesday?) which I accepted. It was just one of those people I couldn't say "No" to.

P.S. Picked up a 4-pg homework assignment from someone named Westley. I found it along the side of North Ave., with tire marks across the front and back. The topic was “semicolon use.” I can just imagine poor Westley showing up for class this morning (in tears?) saying, “Uh, teacher, I lost my assignment. I had it when I left the house, I promise. But when I got on the bus, it was gone. I answered every question, though, I swear. (sob)” Hopefully, the teacher’s merciful, because every question was, in fact, answered.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hanging Out?

I got a jump on National Hanging Out Day, which is this coming Monday (April 19th). It’s a “holiday” that draws attention to energy consumption & saving some by hanging out clothes instead of using a dryer. I honored the observance by looking in just about every backyard I walked past. I took the long route this morning and saw only 3 clotheslines—one of which was our own. Since I passed about 25 houses, that means only 1 out of 8 or 9 houses could even hang out clothes (outside) if they wanted to.

Here’s a quote from the NHOD website, “For many people, hanging out clothes is therapeutic work. It is the only time during the week that some folks can slow down to feel the wind and listen to the birds.” That’s actually the exact same way I feel about my walk to work. In fact, I think I’ve used several of those key terms in this blog as I’ve tried to describe my morning commutes…therapeutic, slow, wind, and birds.

Shortly after I’d passed the last of the 3 clotheslines, I was stopped by two friends (one driving, one walking) at roughly the same time. They knew each other, too…so we all chatted, shook hands, etc. for a minute or two. It was great seeing them. It was a chance meeting that wouldn’t have happened if two of the three of us hadn’t been walking. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 16

P.S. I didn’t spot any glaring trash this morning. Although I did see a tiny bird trying to fly off with a not-so-tiny piece of plastic wrapper. He tried a couple of times to get off the ground with it when I interrupted him. Yesterday was the potentially controversial litter pick-up day. Just off Main Street…on a campus lawn…I saw a beer can (Natural Lite). My first inclination was to pass by…What if someone saw me carrying it & jumped to some far out conclusions? I resisted, though, picked it up and carried it to the library. I’m pretty sure I walked faster than normal, though, to limit my beer can exposure by at least a few seconds.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Big Ball

Yunno how sometimes you have several balls in the air & it makes life crazy and stressed…and how there are other times it’s just one big ball? Right now, for me, it’s one big ball. And that ball, which is work-related, was on my mind from beginning to end during this morning’s walk. Oh, well. If I have to have a pressing work-related thought, I’d rather have it walking along on a clear, cool, sunny morning. This morning’s weather definitely had a calming influence on my soul. Too bad I was running late & couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest. Lord willing, my one big ball will disappear by lunchtime tomorrow. Can’t wait.

P.S. Found a clear plastic bag near the sidewalk behind the library. It had a bit of candy residue, I think.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


My one word for this morning’s walk to work is “sunshine.” I know I shouldn’t soak it up like I do sometimes. I didn’t even use sunscreen on my (bald) head today. It was the perfect combination, though, of room temperature and the warmth of the rays. If I’d been driving, I might’ve had one arm hanging out the window getting those rays. Walking gives me a chance to get ‘em all over.

As you may have noticed, this entry is being logged on a Saturday. It’s hard working Saturdays, especially on beautiful days like today. Occasionally, students will throw a Frisbee around on the front lawn of the library, which is just plain cruel. Don’t they realize that some of us are stuck inside & can only look out at others enjoying themselves. That’s the end of my pity party. I actually hope that most people are not working today and that they’re outside having tons of fun. Lord willing, I’ll be doing the same thing soon.

Honks from Passersby (to date): 5. Fellow Walker Sightings: 13. Saw one of my closest neighbors (a student) walking to campus. I knew he did, I just hadn’t seen him until yesterday. Good for him.

P.S. I vaguely remember picking up some trash this morning, but can’t remember what. Yesterday, I found a pair of socks on the lawn of the athletics bldg. I suppose I could’ve washed ‘em and donated ‘em to Goodwill, but didn’t.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Driven to Distraction

Weather Report: Fallish. The cool air was refreshing. I forced myself not to wear a jacket, even though I easily could have.
I tried to pray during this morning’s commute. I was staying on track early, using my utility pole method (see March 17 entry), but then got stopped by a passerby. It was a good friend, and I enjoyed the brief visit. If I’d been driving, the visit would’ve never happened. But I couldn’t get my mind back to a prayerful mode afterwards. I can be so easily distracted, it’s not even funny…especially when I’m trying to pray. My prayer focus (while it lasted) was for patience—patience for my wife, particularly, who’ll be home with all the kids today…teaching them, training them, playing with them, running errands with them, and so forth. She needs God’s patience every day. And so do I. This friend I mentioned earlier, who had no idea I was trying to pray, offered me a ride. He probably knew I’d refuse, but was being nice anyway. I told him I was enjoying the cool weather, which wasn’t just a flimsy excuse. Ride Offers (to date): 6

P.S. I cleaned up a piece of duct tape from in front of a downtown business this morning. It’s the kind of thing that would’ve been swept up in a couple of days, but thought I’d beat them to it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


One of the landmarks I can’t help but notice each day on my walk to work is a beehive. A neighbor just around the corner keeps bees. He has about three hives, colonies, or whatever they’re called. All I can see is the boxes, like the one in the photo. Of course, the bees seem to hide away all winter, but when it’s even mildly warm they start coming and going. I always like to take a quick peek to see if they’re active. These are the same bees that hang out in our yard when the flowers are out, so in a way they seem almost like friends. The reason the bees are especially on my mind is because for the first time in almost a year my neighbor’s privacy gate was closed…so I couldn’t see the bees. There was a small consolation, though. A neighbor to this neighbor officially got into the bee business himself about a week ago. His box/hive is set farther back from the sidewalk, so it’s harder to actually see the bees, but at least there’s no 6 foot fence to keep me from looking. Ride Offers (to date): 5

P.S. Found a McCafe cup (large?) in a parking lot across the street from campus. If there’s ever trash I walk past it’s the stuff that accumulates in this parking lot. I tend to focus my litter efforts on campus, but that cup was just too much to pass by. And thankfully there was a public trash can only a few feet away.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

See You At Lunch?

On this morning’s commute I took time to not to pray, so much, but to meditate. To meditate on four words--four little words I say just about every day before I leave the house. In fact, I say it several times (one time per family member). “See you at lunch.”

Surely, in the history of mankind, about a million fathers have said those four little words before leaving home, never to return for lunch, for dinner, or ever. I bet at least one of the West Virginia miners who died earlier this week said those four words on their way out the door…or something similar, to a wife, to a son or daughter… “See you later.” “I’ll be home before dark.” “I’ll be home in time for supper.” I spent my walk time today wondering whether I should say things like that, as harmless as they seem to be. And, if not, what kind of farewell would be more true, more real, more godly? I’m reminded of A.J. Jacobs’ “Year of Living Biblically,” during which he tacked “God willing” onto the end of his every use of the future tense. Why? Because to him it just seemed biblical. “For what is your life? You are a vapor.”

P.S. I picked up a two foot length of clear ribbon from the hill behind the library. And I’ll pick up more trash tomorrow…God willing.

Monday, April 5, 2010


On the walk this morning I noticed a radical change in the trees. On Friday—no fluff. Today—fluff. I call if “fluff” because I don’t know what the technical name is for that pre-leaf stage that trees go through. All I know is that the fluff can mean only one thing: shade. I live for the shade on my walk to and from work, particular at lunchtime when the sun’s directly overhead. Up until now, there hasn’t been many breaks from the sun on my commute. Now, at least, there’s hope.

P.S. This morning I found half a wrapper from a snack-sized package of Cheez-its…on the sidewalk alongside Main. I don’t typically do the litter thing in view of so many passersby, but I’m steadily getting more comfortable with it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

National Walk to Work Day?

I was noticing a lot less traffic on the roads this morning, when it dawned on me that it wasn’t because everyone was walking…it was Good Friday. Perhaps it was a combo of the two. It’s interesting to me that a Walking-To-Work-Day observance would fall on a day when a number of people aren’t even working. Oh, well. There’s a bit more P.S. than normal, because litter became a focal point on this morning’s commute.

P.S. Picked up the most interestingly-shaped bit of trash I’ve ever picked up before. It was a wedge-shaped, plastic holder for one of those ready-made sandwiches. In this case, it was Ham & Cheese. I found it just around the corner from the house. I don’t usually like doing trash removal so early in my commute, because I have to tote it around. It was so in your face, though…fairly big and right in the middle of the road. I couldn’t help myself. As usual, I walked past much more trash than I picked up. It doesn’t usually bother me too much. I find myself caring about it more and more, though. Usually, I limit myself to one litter removal per morning…for a particular reason (more about that later). Walking through the downtown gazebo area, though, I spotted not one but two Subway bags full of trash. Right there on the lawn, making our downtown look a bit slummish. I actually tried walking past them—after all, I was already carrying my one-piece-of-litter-per-day. I took one step past them & just had to stop. I turned around, bent over, and grabbed ‘em.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stress Reliever

Walked to work without a jacket of any kind today. So, so nice. The breeze which was in my face half the time was gentle and only slightly cool—just enough to say, “Hey, wake up.”

I was thinking on my way in about how stressful this week’s been…mostly work-related. Thankfully, walking is considered one of the better stress relievers. Things were different, for me, in Austin. I had a 20 minute commute straight through the heart of downtown, which meant a lot of stop lights and a lot of cars within inches of mine. It was actually a stress inducer, not reducer. Of course, as a librarian, I don’t have a ton of stressful weeks…but when I do, I’m glad my pedestrian commute never requires me to change lanes or slam on the brakes.

On a related note, I spotted something I hadn’t seen yet this year…someone biking…and not just for exercise. The rider was wearing khakis & a backpack, like he was on his way to work or school. It was a pleasant surprise. Our town is anything but a bicycle culture. I still remember the student (years ago), when finding out what church my family was thinking about visiting, said, “Oh, you don’t want to go there. That’s where all the professors who ride their bikes to campus go to church.” And he wasn’t kidding. Whoever thought that bicycling (and perhaps walking) places would be so countercultural? Anyway, be “weird” with me tomorrow & observe National Walk to Work Day (April 2nd)!

P.S. Picked up a plain white straw from the sidewalk near the corner of Main Street. It looked like it’d been mowed over a few times or like someone had chewed it up and spit out out…a few times.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This entry, I hope, fits squarely in the realm of What would I not notice (as much) if I’d been driving instead of walking. The answer? Flowering trees/bushes. I took note this morning of the various kinds I passed & how many. I don’t know the names of them all, but there were three basic groups: white, yellow, and red. I remember these bursts of color shortly after moving to Tennessee. We had wildflowers in Texas. Here, it was dogwoods, azaleas, and the like. Seeing them for the first time…roughly 8 years ago…helped my family feel welcome—like we’d made a good decision to move.

Here’s the official color count from my commute: 18 white trees, 2 yellow bushes, and 1 red. The highlight was the set of three dogwoods in the gazebo area of downtown. Seeing them made me thankful…thankful I don’t have bad allergies. I was especially thankful for God who may’ve created such beauty just so people like me would notice it and say, “There must be someone out there who lovingly caused these things to be.”

In the middle of my commute, I got to enjoy a brief visit with a friend out walking his dog. I didn’t stop…just kept on walking while talking. I hope that doesn’t seem rude to anyone. He was kind of trying to stay on the move, too. He commented that I seemed to be going the wrong direction, and technically he was right. I was sort of passing the campus, only to circle around and catch it on the other side. I just told him I needed the extra exercise. It was nice running into him. He happens to be one of the people I see walking to work on a regular basis. He may even blog about it. Who knows?

P.S. Picked up a plastic wrapper from a two-cracker pack (Zesta). It was in the alleyway behind the downtown pharmacy. Two days ‘til National Walk to Work Day!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Out of My Way

This morning, I took the longest way to work imaginable, and it came to 1,866 paces. That’s roughly 800 paces more than my “normal” route (see Feb. 23rd entry). About 40 of those steps were actually in the complete opposite direction from campus. That stretch felt weird, but it went quickly. The things I do for the sake of this blog! Sheesh!

Since I was counting steps I could hardly think of anything else. But I did notice two things that I might’ve missed if I’d been quickly driving instead of slowly walking by. Two of my across-the-street neighbors…maybe three…are needing their lawns mowed. All three houses are home to at least mildly elderly people. My goal this week is to stop by & ask at least one of them if I can help ‘em out with their yard. Maybe the deadlines I give myself here for all the world to see will spur me on to being a better neighbor. Ride Offers (to date): 4…Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 12

Mark your calendars! National Walk to Work Day is the first Friday in April (April 2nd). Follow this link to learn more.

P.S. Picked up a 6” x 6” piece of peeled paint from garden area of the library. I do promise to explain some day why I bothered.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Walked to work for the first time in 9 days. To celebrate, I took the long route. I also happened to leave the house early…for a change. The weather was perfect & is supposed to stay that way this week. With that in mind, I plan on leaving early (seriously) & taking the long way every day.

The main thing on my mind this morning was my walking places mentor: Scott Savage. He’s the Quaker guy who walked across the state of Ohio to the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles to revoke his driver’s license. He just felt like doing it in person & thought walking there would make the most sense. He’d become a horse & buggy man and didn’t plan on ever driving again. He states in his book (a Plain Life) that when he was in the magazine publishing business, some of his readers would ask him why he didn’t ride a bicycle to get places instead of using a horse which requires food & upkeep. He talks about deliberately choosing the seemingly harder/slower path. His reasons aren’t exactly mine. So I spent most of my commute thinking what I’d say to someone who asked, “Wade, why don’t you get a bike?” or “Why don’t you drive more often?” I found it harder than expected to put it into words. The concept I am drawn to, though, is the word “deliberate.” I like that my slow commute is something I’ve chosen to do. It hasn’t been forced on me. It’s a choice that goes back (8 years) to conversations with our realtor, “We need something affordable, with a roomy yard, with at least 2 bedrooms, and within walking distance of campus.” There were days I felt sorry for our realtor. If we could’ve budged a little on the walking distance thing, life would’ve been so much easier for him. We didn’t. He came through for us. And we’re still reaping the benefits…deliberately.

P.S. Picked up two straws (side by side) behind the downtown pharmacy. One had yellow racing stripes and the other had red. They were a cute couple.

Friday, March 19, 2010

WooHoo Spring Break!

I typically like to record events that happened on my walk to work the day of, not the day before, but a little something from yesterday’s commute is sticking in my mind. I caught a glimpse of a small boy being led into a preschool by what looked like his mom in front and his grandmother behind. The little guy was so cute, with his baseball cap and backpack. He was talking, I think, but was too far away for me to hear. Seeing him go in the front door of the preschool made me think of a couple things. It, of course, made me think of my own children. For starters, it made me thankful—thankful that my wife decided long ago that our children would be at home (from dawn till dusk) during their very young years. It’s actually something we couldn’t have hardly done if we hadn’t moved here…to small town U.S.A.

A couple in a truck pulled up beside me this morning & asked me for directions to the ‘pain clinic.’ I had to tell them I was aware of several clinics, but not a pain one. I referred them to the pharmacist who was busy at work in the pharmacy I’d just passed. I figured if anyone would know about a pain clinic, it’d be him. Thankfully, it wasn’t just me. My coworker, who’s lived in town for decades, hadn’t heard of a pain clinic either. About a block later, I exchanged “Good mornings.” with a garbage man. The truck he was holding onto was stopped at a red light downtown, only a few feet away from the sidewalk. He said “Good morning” first. What a guy!

P.S. Picked up a used mustard thingamajig from behind the library this morning. There wasn’t much litter to choose from today, thankfully. I have a feeling the mustard was the condiment companion of the ketchup I picked up earlier in the week. Who knows?

P.P.S. As I walked home for lunch today, a couple of students (girls) drove by. Their windows were down and one of them had her head sticking out, with both hands in the air, shouting over & over, “WooHoo, Spring Break!” I’m much too reserved to do something like that, but she took the words right out of my mouth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All Ears

I took stock of every little sound I heard on my way in this morning. There were some repeats, but it basically boiled down to ten distinct sounds. Here they are, in chronological order.

1) Birds. They were non-stop from start to finish. I’m no expert, but there seemed to be about 5 different kinds of chirping, and they were all saying roughly the same thing, “Spring is here!”
2) Garbage Trucks. At one point, it was two at one time. With all the sounds that figure into garbage collecting, including the beep beeps that go off when the trucks are in reverse.
3) Dog. Just one, barking at one of the garbage trucks.
4) Passing Cars. About a dozen.
5) A/C Units. Yunno that hum they make? There were two that were loud enough for me to hear.
6) Squirrels. There was one or two circling a tree trunk. I heard that sound their claws make.
7) Electrical Meter. I passed within inches of a utility pole with a meter. It was humming.
8) House Door. Someone slammed it while they were leaving.
9) Car Door. That same person slammed their car door seconds later.
10) Radio. It was a muffled radio program (like a talk show), coming from a parked car.

I’m trying to think about how many of these sounds I would’ve missed had I been on wheels, not on foot. Probably 9, including the birds. That thought makes me kind of sad…for drivers.

P.S. Picked up what looked like a dryer sheet from the sidewalk near the North Ave. pharmacy. It didn’t smell like a dryer sheet, though. That’s right…I took a whiff.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Praying...for a Change

Some who know me (perhaps not very well), and see me walking to work without headphones, may assume I spend a lot of my commute in prayer. I wish they were right. I do think a lot, but not so much pray…regrettably. I did, for a change, today. Helping me along the way were 8 landmarks that I plan on using more and more…for the purpose of prayer. It may be hokey…but the plan may be just what I need. I’m a fairly visual person after all. I need to see can’t-miss things to jog my memory. Normal things, like notes taped to mirrors, index cards wedged in between the keys of my keyboard, utility poles.

I pass 8 utility poles on the average morning. Each one, close enough to touch. And they’re spaced just far enough apart to be useful for prayer. In other words, if I begin talking to God about one thing (as I pass one pole), the timing’s about right to pray about something or someone else when I reach the next pole. It’s definitely something worth experimenting with. Everything to gain, nothing to lose.

I’ll say one thing, those 8 poles helped this morning. But rather than praising God for 8 different things or praying to Him for 8 different people, I prayed 8 different times for one person. For one of the closest Christian friends I’ve had in my adult life. My repeated prayer was, “Father, may he feel exactly what you feel whenever families separate.” Amen.

Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 11

P.S. At the end of my prayer/commute time, I picked up a deflated orange balloon w/ an orange string from the sidewalk behind the library.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reading On the Go

I never, ever read while I’m walking to work. I’ve hardly ever had any interest in doing so. Actually, I don’t typically think about work at all during my morning commute. It’s one of the things I appreciate about my job…not a lot of need to think about work-related things away from work. There was no way I could avoid either this morning. I had an 8:00 presentation to give—a presentation that wasn’t quite what I’m used to. It had me stressed late last night & stressed early this morning. So stressed, I just couldn’t let my 9 minute walk go to waste. I spent the time reading & reviewing my notes for the presentation. I suppose it was something I couldn’t have done if I’d been driving, but still…it was no fun. For one, it distracted me from enjoying the early signs of Spring—things like flowering trees & those yellow flowers that come up before anything else this time of year. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to catch up on the scenery. No more early morning presentations to give this week, and therefore…no more reading on the go.

Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 10

P.S. Picked up a Sunday School-type handout from the parking lot of the campus Art Building.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fellow Walker?

The Morning’s Weather Report: Cool, Gray. I took the long way in this morning, & as usual passed the local Senior Citizens Center in the process. I noticed a cute old woman getting out of her car. It took her a while, in part, because she had to wrangle her walker out, too. The walker had tennis balls on the rear legs. The tennis balls looked brand new, like they’d never been walked on before.

I probably walked an entire block in the same time it took her to get out of her car and walk 30 feet to the building. I was thinking that, for this woman, her walk from the car to the door of the building was a decently long commute. It required a decent amount of both time & effort. For her efforts, I’m definitely going to count her as a “fellow walker.” Walker sightings (to date): 9

Honks from Passersby (to date): 4 Got one Friday afternoon from an old friend.

P.S. You know those area Real Estate guides that you find in racks around town? Full-color, 50 pages plus? This morning, I found about 6 of them lying around the gazebo area downtown. All of them sopping wet. I picked up two & threw ‘em away. I didn’t get the others…for a reason. Someday I’ll share the reason—right here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

.429 Waving Average

This Morning's Weather report: Gentle, but Persistent Rain. Even still, I saw a guy using a leaf blower to clear a driveway. The especially weird part was, it actually seemed to be working!

I tried waving to everyone I passed this morning. Got 3 waves from 7 drivers (.429 average). One of these drivers honked instead of waved. It was nice, but it ruined my average :-)

Honks from passersby (to date): 3...Ride Offers (to date): 3

P.S. Picked up an empty ketchup sleeve? (Sonic)…just down the very wet hill behind the library.

P.P.S. I got to walk home for lunch yesterday with the whole family. As usual, it went slow…but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No Complaints

I’m a man of my word (see March 3rd entry). I accepted a ride yesterday, although I tried hard to avoid it. It was a coworker who was pulling out of the parking lot at about the same time I was walking past the parking lot. I was thinking, “If I can just make it to the corner of Main Street I’ll be safe. She wouldn’t stop and ask me for a ride on Main Street!” I had turned onto Main and taken about ten paces when I heard her yell…from behind me…at the corner I’d just passed… “Wanna ride?” I remembered my “homework” and said “Sure.” Thankfully she left the window down on my side the whole way. One reason I was enjoying my walk was the wind. It felt great!

I’ve been battling a sore ankle this week. I’ve even complained about it a time or two…in the privacy of my home. I didn’t want to bring it up online lest it sound like an attempt to gain sympathetic comments. Something I was reading yesterday by Joni Eareckson Tada made me feel especially bad about even private complaints. Tada’s been paralyzed from the waist down since she was a teenager (diving accident) and has prayed at times for healing. The physical healing hasn’t come though, which has led her to the (faithful) conclusion that “There are more important things in life than walking.” She believes that she wouldn’t know God, love God, or trust in Him nearly as much, if it were not for her wheelchair. Her thoughts made me wonder if—bad ankle and all—if I had it too easy. No more complaints.

Fellow Walker sightings (to date): 8

P.S. I picked up a white Styrofoam cup (Do they make Styrofoam in any other color?) with a blue straw from the alley behind the downtown pharmacy this morning. I could tell it’d been tossed around a bit in last night’s storm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time Saver?

I tried to cut my morning commute in half today, and failed miserably. I was running late & decided to take the short route, which is as direct a route as I can manage, considering I can’t walk through houses or anything. My time savings? 2 lousy minutes. 7 ½ total minutes from house to office. I hate to use language like “lousy” but I was fairly disappointed. The shorter walk, evidently, has more of a psychological affect on my tardiness than actual ticks on a clock. Of course my question is, Is a two minute time savings worth the effort? I’m thinking, no.

P.S. Picked up what looked like a fragment from an ancient sheet of duct tape…in the campus commons area. There’s so much construction going on down there, it was likely left by one of the workers. I realized I don’t go through the commons often enough. I’m probably the last one around here to see the new wall that’s been installed near a popular walkway. It actually has some aesthetics built into it. Very nice!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bikers and Bear Hugs

I’m no sun worshipper, but yesterday I avoided shade like the plague. It was the perfect temp for soaking up plenty of rays without breaking a sweat—even when walking. This morning? A gentle rain. I took the long route anyway.

As you may have noticed, the focus of this blog, in large measure, is what can (and does) happen when I walk instead of drive to and from work. Two things from yesterday fit squarely in that category. I was on my way home for lunch & not thirty paces from the library I was hailed by a hardcore Harley driver, with a black leather coat & a black do rag of some kind. There’s probably a biker term for this kind of head gear, but I don’t know what it is. His helmet was hanging on his bike…it was one of those beanie style half-helmets. He was holding a cell phone & yelled, “Excuse me. Do you live here?” I said yes, and handing me his phone, he said, “Here. Talk to my son and find out where he is. And maybe you can explain it to me.” I found out that his son was on campus only a couple buildings away. I gave the biker dad some quick directions and continued my walk.

Everyone was giddy, it seemed, because of the weather. I had barely made it across Main Street when a student went out of his way to give me a hug—a great big hug, actually…right there on Main Street. It was a real pick-me-up. About a block later, I got my first honk of the year. It was a couple of students, bless their hearts. Windows down, they waved as they drove by. And at the end of the day, I got another honk from some folks I know. I’m lucky if I get two honks in a year! Two in one day? Like I said, “giddy.” I don’t necessarily encourage honks, but they let me know someone’s thinking of me. I’ll try to keep a running total. Honks from passersby: 2

Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 7

P.S. Found a thing o’ Chapstick on the steps in front of Hall Roland. Several inches away was its lid. I snagged both.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Haiti Update

Weather report (two words): Borderline Jacket
Could’ve almost walked to work this morning sans jacket, but not quite. It’s encouraging, though, that I was actually tempted to go without one.

Knowing that much of the week’s supposed to be rainy, I tried to take the long route to work. At one point, I was cutting through a parking lot when one of the school’s professors parked practically in my path. I’m glad he did. In my new role as a “social capitalist” (see last week’s entries), I decided to cut my commute short & take the direct route to campus alongside him. We visited about his recent trip to Haiti. He said things were looking up there, but still made him feel like such a small person trying to hold back a huge tidal wave (i.e., overwhelming). I needed the reminder that there is still a lot of suffering & need in Haiti. I had almost forgotten. And getting the reminder NOT from a news correspondent was especially refreshing. It was an opportunity that (I don’t think) would’ve happened if I hadn’t been walking.

P.S. Found two wrappers this morning: 1> gum (Orbit) and 2> the corner of a candy bar…near the back lawn of the library. I promise to explain someday why I bothered picking 'em up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Social Capital #3

Would’ve taken the long route this morning, but was technically late for work even before I brushed my teeth. The weather was crisp, but sunny as all get out. Beautiful.

If running into people you haven’t seen in a while is increasing social capital, then I’ve definitely had some success this week. It’s happened twice, and both because I was walking, not driving. I mentioned Tues. one of these two old friends. He offered me a ride. The second was someone who seems to make a living walking. I see him everywhere, usually when I’m in the car & I’m driving on by. This time, though, since I was walking and he was too, we had a quick exchange. I commented on his custom-designed walking stick. It was actually more like a staff (21st century style).

The real proof, though, that walking can boost social capital came yesterday. I was on my way home for lunch when I noticed an across the street neighbor (aka, Sears) coming out his front door. The timing couldn’t have been better. He (very) slowly came down his front steps with a cane in hand. He said he was out for a walk around the block…to help with his knee surgery rehab. He plans to return to work (at Sears) on Monday, if he can manage it. I told him I’d been thinking about him, which is true.

Why am I so encouraged about this brief encounter? It’s mainly because of this man (who lives alone) that I began this social capital focus on Monday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past his house this year with guilt for not taking the time to simply knock on his door and say hello, see how he was doing, or ask if he needed anything. Confession time: Over two months ago I had heard a word or two about his operation & never made the short walk up his steps to find out more. Honestly, I’d still know nothing about it if I’d been on wheels and not on foot.

Fellow Walker sightings: still 6 I’ve decided not to count people who are seemingly walking strictly for exercise. It’s certainly admirable…just different. So my running total will keep track of those actually walking to get somewhere.

P.S. Went from the largest litter removal (yesterday) to the smallest (today)—a paper cover for a straw, which was all crumpled on the sidewalk in front of Hall Roland.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not Going to Church

The walk home yesterday was weird, to say the least. I unintentionally got caught in the massive rush to get to church—only it wasn’t my church. I was walking past one of the largest congregations in town, like I do every day. But I rarely pass by it at 5:40ish on a Wednesday.

I closed up the library at 5:30 yesterday (which I hardly ever do) and began my walk home. I knew I might encounter a few stragglers who were running late for what I thought was the 5:30 service at this local congregation. But there were more than a few stragglers…there must’ve been a hundred, at least. College students, non-college students, young, old…streaming in. I did my best to steer clear of the largest concentration of people. When I got to the street that runs alongside the church, I found myself waiting to cross with the wife of our university chancellor. I said hello. We crossed. She walked over to the church entrance, and I did not. It felt strange. I’m used to going against the flow of the world, but not against the flow of churchgoers. I felt like explaining to everyone I passed, “Yunno, I actually worship somewhere else, and we meet at 7:00. No offense.” Just me being hypersensitive to my surroundings.

I actually stopped one of the last “stragglers” I ran into and asked, “The church service over there starts at 5:30, doesn’t it?” He said, “No. 5:45.” “Oh,” I said. “That explains a lot.” And then he invited me to come. I politely declined and continued home.

P.S. I promise I don’t have it in for Burger King…I actually worked at a BK in college. But for the third consecutive day I picked up BK-related trash. And each time the find’s been more substantial. This morning it was a whole bag of remains—still had the receipt taped to it (1 Dbl Cheeseburger & 1 Large Fries, purchased the day before at 11:15 PM). The bag was in the middle of the street, just around the corner from the house. I couldn’t help put pick it up.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going My Way?

Took the long route to work this morning (up North Ave.) and realized half way there that long routes and winter don’t mix.

While walking, I occasionally get ride offers from passersby, but never two in one day—that is, until yesterday. The offers came just before and just after lunch. As usual, the rides were offered by people I know fairly well. Never has a stranger pulled up beside me and asked, “Going my way?” I’ll never forget the time an older acquaintance (in her 60s) stopped in the middle of Main Street (which is truly a main street), with cars lining up behind her, to ask if I’d like a ride. I declined, lest someone think I actually knew this crazy (but very thoughtful) driver.

I passed on yesterday’s offers, too. The after-lunch offer came from someone who may’ve mainly wanted to catch up. It’d been six weeks since we’d seen each other. In retrospect, I wonder if I should’ve accepted. It could’ve been a good “social capital” thing. I wouldn’t have gotten as much exercise or fresh air, but I would’ve made a connection with a good Christian friend who I’ve been missing.

So with a bit of lingering regret from yesterday, I’m giving myself some homework. I’ll accept the next ride offer I get—no matter who’s offering or where I’m heading. Ride Offers this year: 2

Fellow walker sightings: 6

P.S. For the 2nd consecutive day, picked up a Burger King artifact. It was a drink cup (large?), found downtown on the gazebo lawn.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Social Capital #2

Weather report: Rain mixed with snow. I was planning on taking the long route for a second day in a row, but was running late & the hand I was using to hold the umbrella was already numb from the cold.

I’ve concluded that there’s something to this Walking-Increases-Social-Capital thing. I was walking back to work after lunch yesterday…rounded the corner…and spotted my neighbor unloading groceries from her car. I was able to walk right up to her and introduce myself in a perfectly natural way. I’ve decided that although I want to get to know my neighbors better, I’m not going to go way out of my way, like knocking on doors or anything. That’d be a bit forward.

This is one half of the neighbor I referred to yesterday as “duplex.” She’s been living next door for several months and we’d never met. One thing’s for sure, we’d still be complete strangers today if I had been driving back to the office yesterday. I would’ve given a subtle wave at most and kept on going. So what did I find out? She’s not new to town, just new to our neighborhood. And her granddaughter seems to want to go to college anywhere but here in town, which we both agreed was perfectly normal. If nothing else comes of this 5-day experiment, it will have still been worthwhile. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 5

P.S. Thanks to all drivers who (purposely) avoid driving too close to the curb on a rainy day, so as not to splash folks on the sidewalk. At least one person was looking out for me this morning. I appreciate him driving practically in the opposite lane as he passed me.

P.P.S. Picked up a wedge-shaped box from a Burger King slice of pie…off the lawn behind the library.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Social Capital #1

Took the extra long route today, with a major detour through downtown. It was good for about 300 extra steps. The change of scenery was nice, too. I was reading someone’s online comments the other day about “Why Walking Matters.” One supposed reason is “Increased Social Capital.” How so? Walking, unlike driving, promotes more face-to-face interaction with neighbors. Makes sense to me.

I’m putting the theory to the test this week. I started this morning by formulating a target zone for my face-to-face efforts. I typically pass 15 houses on my way to campus each day…7 of which are especially important to me. For one, these houses are the closest to my own. My goal this week is to learn something new about at least one of these 7 neighbors—not by simple observation, but by meaningful interaction. Here’s a shorthand way I’ll be referring to each “target”…1. Sears, 2. Meals on Wheels, 3. Duplex, 4. Nice Lawn, 5. Abandoned, 6. Beekeeper, 7. Yellow House. Most mornings these 7 neighbors are either off to work, still in bed, or just hibernating. My best opportunities may be later in the day. I’ll record my social successes and failures right here. Stay tuned.

P.S. Snagged a 2-ply, industrial strength piece of paper towel from the street in front of (you guessed it) Hall Roland Hall. The sidewalk area of this dorm seems to be a magnet for litter. A student saw me picking up the trash & for a change, I didn’t mind at all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

9 1/2 minutes

I timed my walk this morning...9 1/2 minutes. Less than 10! I couldn't believe it. It always seems like 15, especially when I'm running late. And speaking of late, I do have an as-the-bird-flies, no detours walking route to the office...for those days I'm horribly late leaving the house. At least one of my coworkers is probably thinking, "Wade, you ought to take that route more often." I can't say I blame him. One of these days I'll time that route to see how much of a time saver it actually is.

On my way in this morning, I ran into a fellow walker. He was on his way to class, I imagine. I'm going to keep track of how many walkers I spot this year. Maybe it will help me realize more and more that I'm not alone. Fellow walkers total: 1

P.S. This morning I picked up a red Sonic straw and what looked like a used tissue behind the library. Some readers may never shake my hand again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Texas Two-Step

There are at least a half dozen things I notice during my walk to work...almost without fail. Some more trivial than others. This first walking-to-work landmark fits comfortably in the trivial category (unless you're a Texan). One of the first things I look for each morning is a Texas flag. It's just around the corner, in a neighbor's front window (see pic). It's something I'd probably never notice at 20-30 miles per hour. Walking's perfect, though, for noticing things.
I tend to notice Texas paraphernalia, because it's so rare here. Texas will forever be my birth state, though. It's also where my family lived for 8 years prior to our Tennessee relocation. Surprisingly, not one, but two of our closest neighbors are Texans through and through. We may've accidently formed a commune. I admire folks around here who can fly the Texas flag, even a tiny one like my neighbor's. It only took me a few days of living in Tennessee to realize that the only color of orange appreciated around here is neon, not burnt.

BTW, it was roughly 17 degrees when I left the house--so, yes, I wore my stocking cap. Someone actually asked me yesterday why I didn't wear one on cold mornings. Only Julie knows the real reason, and she'll never tell.

P.S. I picked up an utterly smashed beer can (Natural Light) this morning in front of Hall Roland. Sometime I'll explain why I bothered.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Windchill Factor #1

I'm calling this Windchill #1 because I have a feeling it could be the first of several such posts before winter's end. No matter where I turned, the wind seemed to be aimed directly at my face. Brutal. I need to get over my hang-up about (not) wearing stocking caps on my way to campus.

When I used to drive my way to work (Austin days), I'd have the radio going from start to finish. Hardly did I take time to meditate on anything worthwhile. Walking's different. Off and on this year I've contemplated a question that I vaguely remember borrowing from a book I browsed in '09. How would Jesus live this day as a librarian at FHU? My conclusion, at least for today, was that he'd smile more when greeting library visitors (to make them feel welcome). He'd try to refer to people by name more often (to further recognize their worth). He might actually hustle a bit to meet someone's need (as opposed to slowly meandering, which I can do sometimes). He would also 'go the extra mile' to make those of a different race feel extra welcome. Race is on my mind this morning...after a Black History Month celebration last night on campus. "We Are The World" is still running through my head. I'm not complaining.

P.S. I picked up an empty package of Marlboro Lights (Menthol) this morning in front of Hall Roland. Someday I'll mention the significance of this.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

1,025 steps

For the sake of this blog I did something this morning I've hardly ever done before. I counted my steps (i.e., paces)--from the bottom step of the house all the way to the back door of the library. It was, as you may have gathered, 1,025 steps. I was surprised it broke 4 figures. I've heard that roughly 2,000 paces equals a mile. So it's a half-mile commute for me each day. Who knew?

P.S. On my way in, I picked up an empty tub of Parkay margarine in front of the new Art Building. Someday I'll explain why I'm bothering blogging about it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

jury duty

I've been walking to work for almost 9 years now, but have never stood in line in the process...until today. Got a summons for jury duty about a month ago. Thankfully the county courthouse is only about 40 paces out of the way for me. The unfortunate news was being a part of what seemed to be some experimental new jury duty process. Ten percent of the town had been summoned, evidently. We waited outside in line for 30 minutes...inside for another 15. The one good thing was being in it together (as a group). The group was fairly diverse, but we all at least had jury duty in common. I stood in line between two mildly talkative people (thankfully). They helped me pass the time. I can be very quiet in unfamiliar settings & this morning was no exception. I'm grateful I was standing with a middle-aged man who regularly (and respectfully) criticized the county's jury duty system. He had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. And I'm grateful for the company of a (former) felon who couldn't have served on a jury if he'd wanted to. He was forced to show up anyway. I felt for him. He seemed like a good guy...someone who could also joke about the overblown jury duty summons. It's rare that I get to rub elbows with folks not associated with the school. I need more of it (desperately) for that part of my walk to work today, I'm very thankful.

P.S. Picked up a flattened styrofoam cup on the county courthouse lawn afterwards. One of these days I'll explain why I bother mentioning such things.