I find it a valuable exercise to travel by foot to my regular commitments here in San Francisco, such as the Monday morning rehearsal and lunch with the Singers of the Streets. There are several advantages, one of course being that notching up a few more thousand steps is good for my health, emotional and spiritual as well as physical. But I also like to walk in my habit (so I avoid the heat of the ‘Sunny Side of the Street’, despite that being one of our favorite SOS songs!) There is almost never such a journey that doesn’t include a meaningful encounter with a stranger, whether a practicing Catholic delighted to see brothers visible in the city or someone asking for a prayer or blessing, or perhaps for a coffee or something to eat. We recognize such ‘ministry’ in our regular intercessions.
Why then, I asked myself on my walk the other day, do I nearly always try to answer one more email, read one more draft report or write two or three more checks before I leave the house with my back-pack, sunglasses and sunhat, departing almost without exception 5 or 10 minutes after I’d originally planned to? Am I manifesting the task-oriented, productivity-obsessed culture of our contemporary world – as if 10 minutes more ‘real work’ right now will really make much difference to my life or the needs of the world? How fortunate that walking still yields its benefits even when I find myself quickening the pace to try and shave a few minutes off the ETA that resulted from my tardy departure. Despite the many social problems, San Francisco remains a beautiful city, and even at a brisk pace I find myself nurtured by the palm trees, the blue sky, the varied architecture and the diverse and beautiful expressions of humanity that I see every time I leave the house. And I’ll still stop for a word or a prayer with someone. Christ is manifest in it all and I’m wryly amused by the challenge and encouragement of the Gospel words that come to me, and which we claim to live by, ‘Consider the lilies of the field…’