Walking is our most natural way of getting from place to place. But it’s not just about movement of the body. Walking is also a great teacher, a source of inspiration and a great healer – among other things.


A stroll in a hospital corridor on one’s way to visit a patient brings one into an often-crowded space which is filled with people in various stages of walking.

There’s the person who doesn’t want to be there at all and whose mind is trying to convince the feet to keep going towards the room where the person at the front desk said the patient is. His every step is torn between what the patient will think of him if he doesn’t visit and the stress that this very space brings out in his muscles. “Did he say left and then second right?”

He is met on the corridor by a nurse encouraging a patient to take her first cautious steps just days after surgery. The nurse’s arm around the waist steadies unsteady limbs. Every move of the woman’s body measures each step and counts the freedom against the soreness. Each step is laden with focused intent. The edge of each tile marks another milestone achieved.

Zigzagging between the adults are the younger children of some of the visitors whose walk is unaware of the complicated realities that surround them. Behind one door is a maze of colourful screens, a side-ways dive opens up a vista of curious-looking beds, curtains and noises. The child’s walk has no fear – only a hunger for discovery, a chance to see something new and mysterious. The lights on the soles of their runners seem to synchronise with the beeping monitors on the patients.


First steps connect deeply with the heart. First day at school, first day in a new place of work, first match played on the first team – all moments with which we connect in a profound way. None compare with the excitement that fills a room when a baby is taking those first steps.

Everything else fades into the fog of irrelevance when a child manages to put one foot ahead of another and transfers its body mass from one foot to another. Eyes, ears, small fingers and pointing hand exhale a statement that “I have done it”! A journey has begun but it’s ending is unknown. It’s a walk into possibilities. A step that sees no boundaries. A way forward.


Few people walk to work nowadays. Many people can’t imagine that people would. There’s so much to carry; time is so precious. Maybe walking, even short walks, helps to provide a better perspective, a healthier one in which to live.

People who walk don’t have a horn to blow or a subwoofer that grunts from the car boot that “I don’t want to listen to you”. Of course, we may still not like one another and may think ill of one another, but we learn to modify these feelings when we walk by. The sole of the foot and the soul of the person can help each other through.


Many people remember walking to school but are slow to encourage today’s youngsters to do it. In walking to and from school, I learned a lot. I began to appreciate that the world around me is not simple. The rhythms of nature and the seasons throw up an awareness that day follows night as sure as darkness follows light, that falling leaves make way for fresh buds of springtime, that a bad harvest one year is a difficulty rather than a crisis.

The road to school was always shortened by the stories and colours of life lived by those I met on the way. It’s good to know that we all live in the same interconnected reality, that one person’s woes are partly everyone’s, that joy tastes best when shared.


Walking is a gift that can help me make the journey inward as well as outward.

(Published in the Drimoleague Newsletter, Dec. 2008).