February 22, 2011


the kids and i walked to school today.  the distance is about .6km, not far at all.  we're finally in a groove for the morning routine so we were prepared by 7am and had enough time to walk instead of drive.  the sun was already hot on the horizon as we set out.  soon there were little complaints about how heavy their bags were.  by the time we were halfway there we had greeted several Zulu people with 'Sawobona', observed a lizard, and gathered seeds all over our calves and ankles from the grasses.  we paused and picked them off the best we could. 

we talked about how people travel by foot each day, walking long distances, without sidewalks, often on the side of highways or narrow roads that put one in danger of being hit by a car.  they are always listening to me as i try to explain life as i understand it.  sometimes i'm sure they don't want to hear what i'm saying, especially when it involves them experiencing what they consider a difficulty.  but i know and trust that these conversations will become little gems of wisdom for them someday as they reflect on how they want to live their lives as adults.  today's walk was barely a hardship by any means, but what it did was open the door again for that significant moment where they can step outside of themselves and hopefully connect their hearts to other peoples' realities while they experience something that is uncomfortable for themselves.

for many years i have felt a close connection with people who walk.  i have always associated it with injustice and race, how it's always the poor people who don't have the cars to travel by, and most of the poor people in the world are people of color whose lives have been touched invariably by racism.  i have doubted that any of them, or perhaps a few, would choose to walk such long distances.  i have felt great empathy for their feet which bear most of the burden & which are most often wearing (and outwearing) shoes that are not comfortable enough -- as we know that the most comfortably made shoes with the best of materials are the most expensive (and i haven't had any of those but i sure have looked at them in the store, weighing the cost with the long-term benefit of being able to keep them for a long time because they are made so well).  all of this and more has made me the kind of person who has high regard for those who walk everywhere, everyday.  it feels like my eyes and heart are very attuned to those who are walking, and i find every opportunity to convey with sincerity my genuine sense of friendliness with respect & joy.

To get water, people walk to a standpipe, filling up containers and walk home
 i know there are wealthy people that take transport and walk through cities to get to work even though they own a car.  and i know there are poor people who appreciate and like walking.  what i'm discontentedly observing here in South Africa, in both Cape Town and now Durban, though, is that the lives of black Africans is hard, while the lives of white people is full of comfort and ease.  i am not comfortable being part of the comfort unless my life reflects as much as possible a sense of justice and generosity through the acts of sacrifice, service, and being of benefit to others.  i am not leaving our car at home to save petrol (although that is another benefit); and i'm not walking to get exercise.  my intention truly, at the deepest level, is to feel connected with those whose lives are touched by hardship & the systematic affects of racism everyday.  it is this connection that matters.  it is walking past another person who is also walking and saying greeting them with a smile in their own language.  it is seeing in their face a great joy to see us walking and being friendly.  it is just simple decisions like this that result in shaking up 'how it is' and letting it resettle into 'how it should be'.


  1. How beautiful! You really are an example of humility in action and I appreciate your desire to pass on an awareness and insight of injustice as experienced by many in South Africa to your children.

  2. lovely entry, Pamela. I too have walked a great deal in my life. Mainly because I could not afford a car, but although I always try to greet those that I pass, and remain conscious that a smile and a hello can shift the balance in a day, I have never thought much about experiencing hardship when I walk. Walking in Canada through freezing wind and ice was the greatest hardship I have ever experienced with getting from one place to the next. Thank you for this entry. At the moment I am without a car again, and I walk a great deal around the city. There are many, many homeless people in this city, and I pass them all the time. Your entry gives me a new perspective with which to engage with and relate to them.