Keeping in Step

We have had something of a roller coaster ride for weather in southwestern Ontario these last weeks. Record colds followed by record warms followed by snow followed by rain and then back into the deep freeze again. Add an ice storm, stir, and presto! You have a mess for commuters.

I am a commuter, but I try to commute by car as little as possible. There are days when work demands I drive, but otherwise, my goal is to ride a bus in the morning and walk home. This last week, on one of my bus days I bumped into my neighbour at the bus stop and we chatted all the way to work, catching up on family, and work, and holiday news. He is planning a trip to Holland in April, and so I had opportunity to experience tulips avant le temps vicariously.

While walking through downtown Kitchener on the way home a week ago last Friday, I unexpectedly bumped into a friend I see from time to time at First Nations events. We stopped and chatted for a time, and then as I began to walk, she wandered along with me. Eventually our paths reached the point wherein they were to part, but we both stood and visited, watching the walk light change to stop and back to walk again, and around and around a number of times.

These are the delights of my daily commute. These are the treasures a car doesn’t afford me on those days demanding auto-mobility. Strange, that phrase “automobile.” To be mobile is to be on the move, and the word “auto” comes to us from Greek and means “self.” I’m really only auto-mobile on my feet. In the car I’m really rather car-mobile. But even on those days leaving me to be truly auto-mobile, the friends I meet, the buildings that pull my eye up and out, the sky that stops me in my tracks, the trees that wave; all of these sojourners with me remind me that I never walk alone. I never truly walk auto.

The bible speaks of a cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our life of faith. We Christians tend to imagine that cloud to consist of those who have passed on in the faith – and for good purpose. I suspect that this is precisely what the author of the book of Hebrews had in mind.

All the same, I have to say that these chance encounters with the many “characters” that constitute the narrative of the street often cheer me along. In sum, I am never auto-mobile, nor do I find myself to be on “auto-pilot.” Others cheer, and this carriage I call me-in-my-entirety is driven by forces beyond my control even while I take control.

All in all, it is a gift to walk; it is a gift to wonder while on feet. I find that it doesn’t take too many steps for the cares of the day to wear away and creativity to come, and then, when I have ears to hear, cheers erupt from glistening frost, from crunching snow, from traffic signal parting the stream of traffic. Some of us have to drive, that I know, but hopefully even such as these can find a way to take a breath before and after and even in the midst of the day’s commute.