I was sitting on thus bus this morning watching the people walking to work, walking their dogs, walking to get their coffee, walking for exercise, walking… I wondered why their gait, their stride, interested me so much. And then it came to me, they are vulnerable and open to whoever and whatever comes into their path. Driving a car is like wearing armour, you are protected and covered, no one can touch you, speak to you, interact with you, and you are utterly apart from all that is around you. But walking puts you “out there” and what you see and feel is absorbed immediately, it accumulates and changes you from the inside out.
I got off the bus and decided to walk along Quinpool Road this morning. I was headed toward the Rotary. As I walked I saw business people out washing their windows, putting out sandwich boards, presenting their potential clients with information and an eye-catching display of what they offer. I saw businesses that cater to new moms, leather repair, coffee shops, hipster wear, new glasses, organic foods, etc… I talked to a few of them, learned that most are excited by the warm weather, more walkers, more people dropping in to say hello. At the café I heard music from Spotify that reminded me of my youth, Jonathan Richman signing Girl Frien. A man with tattoos up and down his arms, funky glasses and a turquoise hat looked me directly in the eye and said, “good morning!” in a clear and friendly tone.
When I arrived at the church office I was refreshed and ready, I looked around the front entrance of the church office and sanctuary and thought about our presentation, I thought about walk in traffic and how we might encourage people to come in and see what we are about, I thought about the quality and quantity of my “hellos!” offered to those who walk by. I thought about the way I had absorbed what I had seen and felt and how I was offering this to others.
This also makes me think of the benches I see increasingly placed outside public buildings. There have always been public benches but not as many as I have seen lately, a sign that governments are trying to encourage community spirit. Walkers always talk to those on the benches and vice versa. I thought about the value of having people sit on benches on a high density neighbourhoods to engage and greet passersby. Imagine a church that had volunteers sitting on benches in front of their building with the sole purpose of saying hello and wishing those they meet a “good morning!”
We need to think more about getting out of our cars and homes and engaging in these ways where we are vulnerable and open to the other and making a real effort to be affected by them and then in turn to take that experience and pass it on to those we meet. Livable and sustainable cities need many things, citizens who are keen to engage one another is one of the most important building blocks to make this dream become a reality.