I got a lump in my throat the other day while watching a TV special about amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Especially the leg amputees. They had been fitted with prostheses and were celebrating each step they made on their new legs. I was celebrating right along with them at home.
I well know how important walking has been to my own family. Just going back as far as Grandpa. Every day he could be seen walking the roads of Dorset Township, and quite often his shrimpy little grandson would get to go with him. Even though I sometimes had to skip to keep up, it was nothing but joyful skipping.
Grandpa knew that as long as he kept moving, he could stick around and see another day. Even when he became homebound in his nineties, he would walk “penny laps” inside his long, ranch-style home. How many of the 100 pennies he could move from the desk in his study at one end of the house to the kitchen counter at the other end–one at a time–was a more reliable measure of his health than things like good cholesterol or red blood cell counts, at least as far as he was concerned. Grandpa walked to just this side of 100 years.
Dad could walk all day when he was young, even while encumbered with a heavy sprayer, an ax, and a saw. He was walking the large timber stands of Spencer Brothers Lumber, clearing out undesirable brush. Some days he would “hire” me to come along and help. I don’t remember doing anything but bagging hickory nuts, eating May apples and elderberries, collecting “treasures,” and maybe catching a little poison ivy. But I was developing an appreciation of the joy of walking.
Dad went into the ministry when he was 35, and for decades the only walking he did was to the church, which was usually situated next to the parsonage. By his mid-60’s, he was going to his doctors more than to the church study. That was when he decided to take up walking again: first just around the block a couple of times, later increasing the distance to a mile, and finally covering many miles each day on a route he had mapped out through the neighboring suburbs. I could see the new life coming back into him.
Dad didn’t use pennies to keep track of his laps; however, when I was cleaning out his garage after he passed, I was able to take a measure of how much he had walked. Stacks of bald New Balance athletic shoes lined the back wall. He had left the tread all over the southwest side of New Philadelphia.
I’ve started back up the last ten years, and some of those pesky numbers the doc is concerned about are beginning to drop. I have found walking especially good for the aches of the stomach and of the back. And when I am hurting inside, it even helps lessen the aches of the heart.
I pray for all the soldiers, but today I remember the ones who sacrificed limbs for my freedom. Please bless them, Lord, with millions of steps on their new legs. And maybe even some joyful skipping.