It is easy to possess simplistic (yes, simplistic and not merely simple) and sentimental notions and to take them seriously. For example, someone might hold dear the quaint idea that if we all had a front porch, life would be safer. We would be more of a community. We'd engage each other. Of course, that assumes that one could, and would, use that porch constructively, interacting with neighbors cordially, and so on (picture the opposite of the character Clint Eastwood plays, at least initially, in Gran Torino).
A similar notion, I've long felt, applies to square dancing. Yes, square dancing. Why? Because it permits, even encourages, a limited form of physical flirtation. Theoretically at least, square dancing allows one to experience the margins of marital infidelity or the borders of sexual experimentation or the contours of gender exploration, all within permissible realms. The thinking here is that if more people went square dancing, they'd get "it" out of their system; they'd find ways to sublimate carnal mischief, as it were.
Both of these quaint examples are clearly flawed, but, hey, that's what "simplistic" is all about.
My new simplistic notion is this: if we walked more, we would not only be more physically fit but also more mentally and spiritually fit. We would have better communities. I got this idea empirically on Saturday by walking to Wegmans from Tipperary Hill, about, oh, 1.5 miles each way. I could have driven, but it was pleasant and I did not mind spending the extra time needed to walk.
Walking, you discover lots of things.
You find out first-hand and close-up whether you live in a walkable community.
You see where there are sidewalks, and where there are no sidewalks.
You see litter, nearly everywhere.
You see what it is like to live without a car or a bike or a bus.
You experience life at a different speed. (Read that again, s-l-o-w-l-y.)
You see things differently and you hear things differently.
You experience gratitude for the grace of being able to walk, or you see how difficult the terrain is for someone in a wheelchair.
And here's the simplistic and sentimental part: what if we required all our political candidates to walk in the places they serve, all by themselves? What would be the implications? What if people sentenced to community service had to walk and pick up litter (I know, there are at least two drawbacks to this: why make walking a punishment, and why not prevent littering to begin with?)?
What if we literally walked the walk?
What if we really did walk a mile in someone else's shoes, or at least trod their path?
This is not a liberal or conservative issue, neither left nor right.
I invite you to try walking.
I do not mean a little stroll in the park with your dog (as I try to do anyway nearly every day) or around a suburban cul-de-sac. No, I mean something like this: going to buy that milk or bread or cereal. Take a reusable cloth sack and walk to the grocery and back. Live in the country? Hmmmm, you probably do a lot of walking already. Live in the city, you probably do a lot of walking already.
But if you live in an exurb or suburb, you probably drive.
Tell me what you find.
What are the hurdles to walking?
And what are the rewards?
Just imagine if our communities made walking easier.
And how will we ever know how hard it is or how easy it is to walk in our communities if we don't try it for ourselves?