This I Believe

Beth - Walnut Creek, California
Entered on March 2, 2007

I believe in walking to school

I believe in walking to school. Having grown up in a different place and time, it is still a stretch for me to understand why this is unusual in my community. Is there really any other way to get there?

Explaining my reasons is easy. After all, I recited them to my children almost daily for the first few months my oldest child attended kindergarten. As we began our one mile journey to school and they saw our neighbors pass by in their cars, they asked repeatedly why we were different. Eventually they came to enjoy the experience as much as I do. Well, most of the time, that is. So what’s the big deal?

For me, walking to school was a simple first step toward leading a more balanced lifestyle. It is a small thing that helps me focus on the BIG things. Before walking to school, I sometimes felt a little distant from my children. Now, I have experienced them opening up to me in conversation in a whole new way. Before walking to school, I was feeling like I didn’t know my neighbors. Now, many of them use this as a launching point to greet me, and I smile when they tell me they look forward to watching us pass by their homes each day. I was feeling a little heavy on my feet. Walking to school has put me on the path to better fitness. When I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious, walking to school helps me start the day with a peaceful state of mind. When I am feeling disconnected from my Creator, walking to school provides me the opportunity to observe the beauty of God’s world in the morning light. These are all things I hope to pass on to my children.

I have always known I would walk to school with my children, but my “belief” has been formed only recently as a result of several small moments in time. First, there was the time that a friend challenged me. She said, “Sure you’re walking to school now when it is warm and sunny. Just wait until the weather changes. You’ll see!” But her words only made me more determined to stick with my plans. After all, I grew up in Wisconsin. California winters were nothing in comparison. Then, there was the time I heard my son explain to his friend how the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. He even pointed in the appropriate directions as he spoke, and I smiled as I remembered the walk to school when we had this discussion. My conviction became firm the day we had to drive to school (we were returning the class guinea pig) and my son worriedly asked me, “But Mommy, will my muscles still work if I don’t use them this morning? Will I be ready to learn?” Finally, I knew I was getting through to him.

And so, I continue to use these walking opportunities to talk to my children about everything. We discuss God, nature, where babies come from, and how we treat others. We sing songs about the days of the week and count by fives. We watch our shadows come and go as the sun rises in the sky. In the fall, we shuffle through piles of leaves on the sidewalk. In the winter, we watch the worms come out after a rain, and we notice ice in the street gutters after a cold night. We talk about keeping our bodies healthy and preparing our hearts and minds to learn. We race from one street corner to the next, and we look forward to daily chats with the crossing guard. And on those days when even I do not want to walk, we talk about character and why we sometimes persist in doing things even when we’d rather not. This is important stuff. So now, whenever I think we don’t have time to walk to school, I remember these things and realize we can’t afford to miss it.