As I sit in the little priest room, just off the chapel, waiting for penitents, I gaze out into an open field on the other side of the convent wall. The grass is high, and a few Acacia trees with bright orange flowers wave in the sultry breeze. There are paths through the grass, and people are walking through it. In fact, people are walking all over this little village of Marin. It’s not the price of gas—as far as I can make out, gasoline is 12 cents a gallon here (we filled up our little car for less than a buck).
People walk here in Venezuela. Of course there are cars (most of them ancient gas-guzzling Chevys and Fords, with thudding mufflers and wheezing engines). I haven’t seen so many boats (ponderous LTD Wagons and expansive Pontiac Montegos and of course the famous shiplike Galaxies) plying the streets since my boyhood. But the folks are walking—to and from the store, meandering about to check in on friends, strolling to work, and even children (gasp) walking home from school. They seem to enjoy it, and it seems to agree with them. It’s a delight, actually, to see them just ambulating everywhere, like people should. God gave us two legs and two feet. We are a naturally perambulatory species.
In California, and might I say especially in Los Angeles, it’s a disgrace to walk to the grocery store. It means you can’t afford a car. The streets of the USA are expressly not made for walking. We have more sidewalks than the rest of the world combined (I’ll wager) but we rarely use them. In Venezuela they walk on dirt paths, in the middle of the road, and on broken and crumbling relics of sidewalks. Socrates and his peripatetic philosophers walked. Jesus walked all over Galilee. St. Thomas Aquinas used to sing the Veni Creator Spiritus hymn as he walked to school. The pioneers walked from St. Louis to San Francisco, strolling beside their Conestoga wagons. I used to walk two miles to my elementary school every day (until Mom and Dad bought me a banana-seat bike for my birthday).
We could all do with a little more walking, and walking in the presence others, social strolling, shall we say. They still do it in third world countries, and I could sit here all day, just watching people come and go. It restores my faith in humanity.