In the winter months I usually walk to work. Bikes and snow do not mix, so I usually dress warm, pick the right footware, and walk the 1.7 miles, each way, to and from work. I do it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because it gives me a decent workout every day.
One of the bigger reasons I do it is that it allows me time to process the coming day, in the case of the morning trip, or the day I had, in the case of the evening. I usually listen to my iPod and walk at a pretty brisk pace, but it allows me to wind down or crank up as need be.
I've decided that walking also serves to ground me; it keeps me humble; one of the people. If there's one thing the world could use it's more walkers, more humility. Cars tend to distance people from their environment and the world around them. When you're walking, you're right in it. You are feeling what's to be felt, hearing what's to be heard and seeing it all up close. It gets my heart going and keeps me lean and at my fightin' weight, as my stepfather used to say.
On my walk I have two businesses that are everyday reminders of my health and mortality. On my way to work, I pass by an senior disabled community center. The place seems to cater largely to people in wheelchairs, but there are a few walkers as well. They do crafts and games and I think they spend most of the day there. When I pass in the morning, there are some who are asleep in their wheelchairs, others who are just sitting with blank faces and others actually doing something.
It is a big wake-up call to see this every morning. As much as you or I say we never want to get to that point, it happens to more people than not, it seems. Each of these people had a vibrant, healthy life at some point and now they're doing everything they can to keep it rich. Sometimes their bodies won't let them; the ultimate physiological betrayal, in my opinion. Other times, it's probably just easier for them to check out and fall asleep.
It's not exactly death staring me in the face every morning, but it's a daily reminder of what might be coming. The days of 1000 piece puzzles with 4 missing pieces, or Yahtzee or Bingo parties, are not too far off. To ward it off, in part, I walk...while I can.
On my way home, just across the street from the senior center, I pass by the Easter Seals agency. From what I gather it is the same kind of center, except for developmentally challenged kids. I see the same variety of expressions as I had earlier in the day across the street. Some kids are sleeping, some are watching TV blankly and others are engaged with playing, goofing off, etc.
This center reminds me of how I am never to take for granted my mental health or that of my children. These kids are beautiful, happy kids in their own right, who, it might be said, have also been betrayed by their own bodies. By God's grace, I was given a healthy body and mind and it's my intention to use both up to their max. To do anything less is to waste the gifts given to me. If we're lucky, we're given 75 years on this earth and if you want to burn 9 of them watching a glowing cathode, well, that's just a damn shame.