It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


I have generally disliked the month of February in the past, but so far this year it has been delightful. I enjoy awaking each morning to a slightly chilly house and taking my daily walks with little more than a light jacket. With the sun shining overhead and my favorite music playing through my earbuds, I cruise around my neighborhood enjoying the sights and the sounds of mid-day when there are few other people out and about. I indulge in a kind of introverted paradise in which I am alone in my thoughts and able to relax and be one with my environment.

I have designed a route that takes me past a lovely park and next to the golf course where I often see people enjoying a leisurely game. The little waterway that snakes next to my path is home to flocks of birds that always make me smile. I may see a family of ducks or a crane or maybe just an ordinary crow. The creatures don’t appear to notice me as much as I do them. Once I even spied a possum skittering into a drain pipe but most often it is a squirrel that entertains me as I count my daily steps. 

There has been a great deal of wind of late. It hums through the trees creating a lacy pattern of shadows on the sidewalk. There is a beauty in its sound and it keeps me cool as it caresses my face. I know that I will miss the perfection of the weather that has so far defined this month when the days grow warmer and the sun rises higher in the sky. I am enjoying the temperate days while I can and secretly wishing that they might stay this way for a bit more time. 

I think a great deal as I walk. I sometimes find myself conversing with God. I feel such gratitude for the world in which I wander that I thank Him for my blessings. I also ask Him to watch over the friends and family who are suffering with personal trials. My daily exercise provides me with a grand opportunity to meditate and with both physical and spiritual exercise I become quite relaxed and optimistic. Getting away from the chatter of the world for even a few minutes is quite liberating for the soul.

Still, I often think of people who do not have the advantages that I do. I recently read about Syrian refugees who are living in tents in areas where the weather is freezing cold and snow lies on the ground. Many of the families are comprised of only women and children who have little idea where the man of the house presently resides. They have left behind lives that they loved as much as I do mine for an uncertain future. They are weary and understandably tired of spending month after month in crowded camps where disease and discomfort stalk them. If they were to have just one wish it would be for the war in their country to end so that they might return and be united with their families and neighbors. They long to once again enjoy the luxury of routine and what they know best. 

I try to imagine how I would feel if I were suddenly uprooted and living in a place where I felt cold and sometimes unwanted. It would be so incredibly sad to be displaced from the lovely neighborhood that I so enjoy in my leisurely walks each day. It would be hard to lose the many comforts of my home. I can’t even fathom the fear of wondering and worrying about family members who had all but disappeared. It is something that often crosses my mind as I walk. I have plenty of time to think about such things as I chalk up the miles and it always makes me quite sad. But for the accident of my birth I might be one of the frightened souls living in a tent far away from home. I am humbled that my own world is filled with such abundance.

In all honesty I sometimes fall victim to that very human tendency of self pity. I mentally complain about having to count my calories so that I might lose some weight. I dislike the poke of the needle when I get nightly injections of a drug designed to build back bone that I have lost due to osteoporosis. It would be easy for me to descend into a state of negativity in which I bemoan my bad luck but on those walks I think about my situation from a different point of view. I realize just how fortunate I am to be able to afford the healthy foods that I need for my diet rather than the less expensive sugar and carb filled alternatives that are the only thing that some people can afford. I am lucky enough to have a treatment that will make be stronger that few on this earth would have access to. I realize that the very things that bother me are actually proof of my own good fortune. I can’t even remember the last time that I was hungry from lack of food or that I was turned away at a doctor’s office because I had no means of paying for the visit and yet there was a time when I was very young when I did indeed experience such things. I recall opening the refrigerator at the end of the month and seeing open space. Somehow even in those moments my mother always managed to find something to give us to quell the rumblings in our tummies. 

I have a dear friend with whom I worked for many years who is undergoing painful and debilitating treatments for cancer. Her hair is slowly but surely falling out. She has experienced side effect after side effect, sidelining her from doing the things that she most loves. Nonetheless she keeps a positive face on things even when she is admittedly weary of being strong. She valiantly endures her trials and attempts to find happiness and laughter to keep her moving forward. Mostly she is grateful and optimistic that slowly but surely the treatments appear to be working. She looks forward to a time when she will one day resume her life cancer free. She continually thanks her friends and family for their support when in fact she is the hero who inspires us every single day.

My quiet walks have taught me to be happy and to appreciate my many blessings. I truly understand that I am a very lucky person. Yes, I worked for much of what I have but I might just as well have been born in a place where I would not have been allowed to get an education and determine my own fate. It is mind blowing to realize the graces that have been bestowed upon me. 

I’ll be donning my walking shoes in a few minutes and heading out for another adventure. There is no telling what I will see. That’s part of the fun as well. I’ll smile at the other people who are taking advantage of such a lovely day and nod at the workers painting houses and landscaping yards. I’ll listen to the wind chimes as they ring out from the porches as though greeting me as I pass. I’ll contemplate the problems that we humans face and consider how I might help to solve them. Mostly though, I’ll remember to be thankful for all that I have and to delight in my good fortune.

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