Monday, July 20, 2009

The Walk (by Billy Coffey)

(This post was first published as a column by the Staunton News Leader.)

“I like walking with you, Daddy,” my daughter said.

Her tiny hand slipped into mine and stayed there. Our joined arms moved back and forth in a soft cadence that echoed our footfalls.

“Me, too,” I said.

“Let’s play I Spy,” she offered.

“Okay. You go first.”

Our game began with the obvious—black for the truck in the driveway we were passing, red for the mailbox on the other side. Yellow for the sun. Gray for the dog that just bounded out from the field.

But then things began to get a little more difficult. On my part, anyway. I missed the orange on the robin that was pecking its dinner from the grass. And the brown on the rabbit that sat nearly invisible on the side of the road.

Missed the yellow hair bow on the little girl who was playing with a balloon in her backyard.

Missed the white on the rocks that scrunched under our feet.

Even missed the black on the very shirt I was wearing.

No father wants to be beaten in a game of I Spy by his seven-year-old daughter. Especially when that father happens to take a lot of pride in noticing things that others maybe wouldn’t. But as we walked and talked and swung our arms, I had to admit the obvious.

I was losing it. Slipping in my noticing.

It had been imperceptible rather than sudden, this change in me. That’s the worst kind. Change that comes sudden is painful, but at least you don’t go around wondering what happened and where you went wrong and how it got to be this way.

My thoughts were broken by the approach of a married couple taking that strange gait that is more than walk but not quite jog, puffing and sweating against the summer sun.

My daughter waved with her free hand, and I offered a “How ya’ll doin’?” in their direction. The man managed to nod weakly and gasp a “heeep,” which I took as hello. The woman was oblivious to us, transfixed on her goal of putting one foot in front of the other.

I looked down to see her gazing up to me, wrinkling her nose. I shrugged—beats me. We walked on.

A few more losing rounds of I Spy later, and we were greeted with another pedestrian. Younger woman, very fit. Decked out in Spandex and and armed with an iPod and a watch that looked as though it could not only count calories and measure distance, but split the atom as well.

She zoomed past our wave and “How are ya?” as if we were just more gravel and blades of grass. Just two more obstacles to avoid in the pursuit of a flatter stomach and firmer butt.

My daughter and I walked in silence a for a few steps, our game suspended. Then, “Daddy?”


“How come people walk so fast?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Most people around here use walking as exercising. But it’s only exercising if you go fast.”

She looked down to the road and kicked a pebble with her flip flop, thinking.

“Exercising’s good,” she offered.

“Very,” I said.

“And walking’s good, too.”


“But,” she said, “walking shouldn’t be exercising.”

“It shouldn’t? Why?”

She threw her arms up (and one of mine in the process) and said, “Look! Everything’s so pretty! These people are missing it all because they’re going too fast!”

I looked down at her and she up to me. She said, “Those people would be really bad at I Spy, Dad. They would lose every time because they can’t see anything.”

They’d lose every time. Because they’re going too fast.

We continued on then and resumed our game. The result was both inevitable and expected. She won without much of a contest.
But in a way, I won too. I learned something that evening with my daughter. Something important.

In the end, life should be a walk and not a run. We fool ourselves into thinking that the point is to get somewhere as fast as we can. It isn’t. It’s to have somewhere to go and then enjoy the trip to it.

There will always be a gap between where we are and where we want to be. In our deepest hearts we are all wanderers in search of something. That’s okay. Even wonderful. Just as long as we wander in wonder and hold the hand of someone we love.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today, and be sure to catch Part One of his interview with Lynn Rush tomorrow about the call that every writer dreams about.


Peter P said...

Your daughter is amazing.

My 6 year old daughter would ask questions like "why do those blades of grass grow closer together than the ones at our house? Is it because ours need more space to breath?"

Or "Why do you think they mow the grass on a Tuesday? Wouldn't it be better to mow on a Monday because no-one comes to the park on a Monday?"

She misses the beauty for all the details.... but then, so do I!

great post Sir.

God's Not Finished With Us Yet... said...

I love it! This is such a very simple yet so deep and true post to reflect on. We all really do (in general speaking) rush to often, overlooking so very much and making mistakes along the way only to have to play 'catch up' by going over them to fix those errors. If we'd just taken our time and did it right the first time none of us would have such mistakes.

Great reminder about taking it slow, looking around ya, taking a nice breath, and taking everything in.

Love the picture of you and your little girl too!! Very sweet photo of the two of you!


God's Not Finished With Us Yet... said...

....oh, and I'll be sure to read up on your interview with Lynn Rush too. Can't wait to read that one either!!


Shark Bait said...

Oh bother!

Walking is about the only exercise I get these days. I guess I'll have to find a new hobby.

Good post there.

Denise said...

Such a nice picture of you, and your dear daughter. I really enjoyed this post my friend, blessings to you both.

Anonymous said...

Our children can teach us soooo much. Take the time to spend with your children while they are young.

Time passes by as fast as most of us walk, so we all need to slow down and take in what God has done.


~*Michelle*~ said...

I love this post....God can send some of the most important messages through a child, huh?

My husband gets annoyed with me sometimes when I dilly dally and stop and smell the roses. He blames my ADD on why I am late for most things. I don't want to be one of those "....people missing it all because they’re going too fast!"

wise child. wise child!

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Love it, Billy! We all need to pay closer attention to the small things around us. And be more child-like. I love the picture - I'll bet you cherish it as well.

Joanne Sher said...

Definitely wise girl (and a cutie too!). And yes, life SHOULD be a walk. Great, GREAT reminder. And amazingly profound as usual.

Terri Tiffany said...

Excellent post! We learn so much from our children if we only listen. Love your writing style--I know I say that every time but I do.

Chatty Kelly said...

Loved it. What a sweet story. Keep walking!

Annie K said...

If we could bottle that innocent wisdom of our children...

Great post Billy!

Nitewrit said...

This is really making me wonder. I've read this in other's posts, how people whiz by without any acknowledgement of another's existance. Am I living in the last friendly state? I walk a lot, my wife walks a lot, and very few people pass us on these walks without a hi or wave, even those a-jog or mounted on a bike. Maybe living in such a small state with a small population we just feel a need for neighborliness. I don't know. I hope we never change. Something nice about people recognizing others as companions on the path.

Larry E.

Lanette said...

Wonderful post. Kids really make you think. Enjoy every minute with her!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Love this part, "...wander in wonder and hold the hand of someone we love.


Liz said...

Absolutely and inspiring post! Your daughter is a genius, by the way, in case you didn't know!
Thankful my exercising is done at the gym most days so that I can enjoy my walks! :)

Helen said...

She is right. The roses, the impatients, the begonias...they are all too beautiful to pass by without stopping and gazing at their loveliness.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Billy, I had the same experience this week in Colorado. Hiking mountains, I could get so caught up in trying to put one foot in front of the other -- and in trying so hard to get to the top -- that I would miss the beauty right beside me.

sherri said...

My thoughts are right there too. Brilliant little child. You need to continue paying very close attention to her words.

April said...

I knew this was going to be a zinger and I couldn't agree with you more, Billy! Everytime I go running at the park, I make it a point to offer someone a smile or a "hello"...and I always keep my eyes open wide to the beauty all around me.

jasonS said...

Wonderful post and I'll leave it at that!

The Homefront said...

I have fallen in love with your daughter and haven't even met her yet. She reminds me of my own...precious and infinitely insightful.

Maybe being closer to the ground helps. I think the taller we get, the less we see. Children seem to catch it all.

Brilliant post, as always!

Jeanne Damoff said...

Love this. We can learn so much from our kids if we really listen to them. I wish blogging had been around when mine were small. As it is, most of the daily moments I treasured at the time are lost to memory.

I need to slow down, too. Like Jennifer, when we went hiking in Colorado a couple of weeks ago, we moved so fast, I had to watch the trail to keep from stumbling. Every now and then I'd sneak a peek at the sun slanting through towering trees or the dainty wild flowers growing in the underbrush. But only God knows how many beautiful things I missed.

Thanks once again for inspiring me to live with my eyes open. Also, I love the coming and going photos of you and your daughter. Nice touch. :)

gzusfreek said...

This is a good one, BC! You are brilliant!

katdish said...

Jeanne -

So, did you like the coming or the going? I gotta tell ya - I'm torn! (Snort!)

Steph @Red Clay Diaries said...

As usual, I love this post, Billy.

But Katdish, what I can't figure out is, WHO'S TOM?

Elaina M. Avalos said...

I decided to get myself out of the house and go for a little drive a couple of hours ago. I headed towards the most "country" part of this area I could think of. The whole way there, while I was driving through the ecological preserve and my way back, people were driving like maniacs and couldn't handle my going the speed limit.

It was a fairly strong reminder of why I loved living in the area of NC I used to live in. A drive to my favorite favorite hiking trail or to the beach was just as relaxing as was the actual hike or walk on the beach.

I used to have so much more time to actually observe life and God's creation. I'm not quite sure why people want to so quickly run through their days? What is everyone so afraid to slow down for? I really miss that pace! There's so much to see and hear when you're moving at a slower pace.

I love that your daughter has figured that out already!