I pass an older woman in purple slacks. She carries a purse, so I know she isn’t out on a leisurely stroll like I am. She has a purpose, a place. I have a purpose, too, but it’s not quite so tangible.
There aren’t many places I feel closer to God than when I am walking. Walks are my response to uncertainty, to fear, to wrestling. I walked around and around on 9/11, and again the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. I walked as graduation approached and I mourned the loss of my little life at college, and I walked the day I realized I would not be able to take that job with AmeriCorps back in 2012.
As I go, I talk to God. I slip in and out of actual conversation with him and conversations with others in my life. I shape thoughts and how I feel and how best to convey these things to other people. But God listens the whole time, and I feel his shaping of my words, too.
I stop by the stream and sit on the crooked cement slab, watching the water flow from under the road. It foams and swirls and swirls together, one floating foam into another, until they converge and slip over the rocks and down the stream.
I think about how we are all “others” and how this is scary.
That seeing and accepting another’s otherness is what community is about.
No one drives by to see me in my striped hoody by the stream, and I know what waits for me on my return home: Bonhoeffer and YA literature, a couch made soft with blankets and the sound of the neighbor children racing their bikes in the street.
I sit for a moment longer, and I want to sing to the Lord. I want to sing a song of trust and faith, a faith that covers and holds up all the brokenness and sadness I sometimes feel.
I want to sing, but no song comes. I wait. I am open.
I want to sing.
But there, by the stream on that quiet road, with birds chirping in the weeping willow, no song comes.
At first, I am concerned. Where is my song? I want to have an offering, but my hand — my throat — are empty.
And then I think that maybe my offering is too much me and not enough listening.
Too much sound and not enough quiet.
Too much struggling for answers and not enough allowance of questions.
And so I sit a moment longer, get up, walk home.
An offering of listening.