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Driven To Walk

I live in a typical suburban town in a typical county in the middle of a typical East Coast state. It’s so typical, in fact, that after 19 years of living here, I have taken for granted how typical it really is. Growing up in my town has made me dream of bigger things that lie outside its borders—countries and oceans and mountains yet to see and set foot upon. Consequently, growing up in my town has cultivated my love for travel. I’ve traveled four times to Asia (three times in the past three years) and twice to other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, and one time I drove across the country in a white Toyota Camry. And after having gone to different places in planes, cars, buses, taxis, rickshaws, vans, third-world mopeds and motorcycles, I’ve come to appreciate that life is actually a lot more beautiful traveled on foot.

[EXCESSIVE CAR USE CAN DEHYDRATE YOUR SOUL]

Here at home, I travel on average 40 miles a day in my car. That includes everything from going to the bank (a mile away), to going to meet a friend for lunch (about seven miles round-trip), to going to prayer meeting or cell group, or driving to see my girlfriend who lives about an hour away. I take my car everywhere. And usually, I try to vary the roads I take on the way home, just to change up the scenery now and then. Driving home on the same roads every day and stopping at the same traffic lights have really gotten to me. I just can’t do it anymore. I feel like an automated driving machine that serves my car. Something feels funny about that. Not funny ha-ha, but more like funny strange. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? It seems like I have to do everything for it. If it’s not an oil change, it’s rotating the tires, performing preventative maintenance check-ups, getting a motor vehicle inspection or just getting a long overdue car wash. Shouldn’t my car serve me?

And then, as if my car knew that I was discontent with driving it around, fulfilling its lusty desires for more and more gasoline and serving its princess-like ambitions for high-cost maintenance and check-ups, it happens. It needs to be taken in. That’s right. To the shop. To the doctor, if you like. To the professionals. And so I took it to Pep Boys, and then, when they couldn’t figure out what the problem was, to the dealer. As a result, my car has been to the shop twice this week, rendering me completely immobile and static at home. That is, until I discovered self-propelled motion—what you and others might call walking.

Now, city-folk might not get what the big deal is, but to a suburbanite, your car is synonymous with your social and economic life-being. It is necessary. It is vital. It is, in many ill-conceived ways, you or a part of you. Also, suburbanites don’t walk—especially when where you want to get to is only a mile away or less.

With that said, there are a few necessary things I found my home to be aptly situated around. The Pep Boys auto shop is about a mile away, as well as three well-stocked supermarkets, one public library, one post office, a pizza place, a 7-11 and other small independently operated eateries and businesses. How convenient. Well, for a person traveling in an automobile, that is. Car-less, transportation-less and rendered completely immobile, I soon realized that going anywhere would take a lot more effort than simply pressing my foot down on a petal and inclining the seat as far back as possible to maximize comfort. And so, after checking my car into the shop, I endured the one-mile or so walk back from Pep Boys to my abode, where, upon arriving, I found myself sweaty, thirsty and really quite tired. But for a cool November day, it turned out to be just the thing I needed most—exercise and a breath of fresh air.

[WALKING IN NEW LIFE]

This much-needed one-mile walk had put new life into me. I actually saw what was around me—the trees, the sky-less gray clouds up above that didn’t seem so depressing anymore, but really quite beautiful. I could hear the birds singing and chirping, and I thought I heard them sing my name. Well … it’s all true, except for that last part. I loved feeling the cool November air run through my lungs and comb through my hair. It felt great to be outside without the sound of the highway or the road at my head, without the humdrum buzz of the radio or my stereo, without the inoculating shell that was my car that made me feel so completely disconnected from the world I was living in. It felt invigorating to be connected to the rest of the natural world that didn’t have automated units of transportation. Can you imagine a squirrel on a little moped? Or a chipmunk in a little customized Harley? The world just wouldn’t be the same.

Afterward, I took my Schwinn Moab mountain bike out of the garage for the first time in almost six months. I had to pump some air back into the tires, but then I was off to … the public library. I don’t know about where you live, but my public library is an absolute bastion of goodies. You can borrow books for three weeks at a time (and renew the book for another two weeks so long as no one else has requested it), rent DVDs, videos and computer games and take out CDs for three weeks at a time—for free. I began to discover the little treasures of community that were around me—the library, the supermarket, the sidewalk—that made me dread getting my car back. But I know I need it too. My automobile takes me places I cannot get to on my own. It boldly takes me where I have never gone before (sometimes). At the present moment, it is necessary for me to function in the lifestyle in which I do.

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[REMEMBER YOUR HEART]

Along the journey of life, though, sometimes it just takes a walk to remember that we need to jumpstart our hearts again. If my heart can remember that the places within walking distance are meant to be walked to, then I’ll easily remember that the beautiful things in the world are meant to be admired, enjoyed and given thanks for, by a truly wonderful Maker.

[Charlie Sim, a graduate of Rutgers University, is confidently pursuing a Masters of Education in Teaching English.]

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