“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly ahead, but to do what lies clearly at hand”- Thomas Carlyle
There is something euphoric about arriving at a destination by foot.
The richness of experience and revelations that exist between two points….
Case in point, today’s urban hike into town for a piping-hot cup of dark roast coffee and eventual jaunt to REI to research sleeping bags for the next big adventure. (hiking Macchu Pichu’s Inca Trail- a wish-list destination, at which, I prefer to arrive by foot. )
Urban hiking.. a freshly added “no fees attached” recreational activity … loosely defined as get out of your house and walk somewhere interesting…see what you discover . This may not sound like a new phenomenon. You may be thinking to yourself, “… people live in cities, bustling to and from by foot, bus, taxi, and all other sorts of public transport.” While that’s true, I think the percentage of Las Vegans living on my side of town commuting this way remains quite small. And while hiking is popular here, it’s generally directed west, towards the Red Rock conservation area.
Today’s suburban expedition led me to the discovery of the RTC’s city bus timetable, and piqued an interest into commuting to work via public transport for a change. Feels like traveling for some reason, rather than commuting. Traveling on a journey takes many forms. As I passed a bus stop on my left, I looked down and noticed 3 poinsettias and 3 prayer candles in a mini vigil presumably to a lost loved one. The wicks were burning brightly, suggesting I may have just missed intersecting someone sorrowfully ruminating their loss. On another part of today’s journey, I was able to stop and smell the roses outside a cast iron gate entrance to a perfectly manicured golf course I pass by in my car daily. Smelling fresh ivory and magenta colored roses growing wildly in the desert in January counts as simple abundance in my book. I tucked that experience in my mental backpack along with unanswered questions such as ” I wonder how many people ride the public bus here for work? How much does it cost to ride the bus these days? Could I try to get to the strip on this route? ” Carrying on, I reminisced about those impressionable junior high days I relied on the public bus for transport to school while my parents worked hard morning to night to provide for my brother and me. I then contemplated if I had ever noticed these roses while in my car at that familiar intersection stoplight.
Ever notice on a walk in your neighborhood how the bushes will stretch their limbs north-facing in order to catch a glimpse and bathe in the afternoon sun passing overhead mid-late morning? So beautiful to behold nature’s silent conversations and it’s ceaseless intricacies.
After a 9 mile round trip trek around town today, I am particularly interested in exploring with you the differences in the experience of consuming a cup of coffee at a Starbucks, versus a McDonalds. Understandably, geography plays a part. I am speaking about these two particular shops near my home.
Today I chose to unpack my day-off arsenal of books, sharpies, index cards, and spiral notebook on the outdoor terrace area at Starbucks. Having just schlepped into town on a cold morning, my body temperature was up, and I profited by sitting in the direct sunlight at an empty patio table for two. Meanwhile, inside the bustling ,iconic coffee house, I was struck by the multitude of business people, cyclists, computers, I-pads/phones/pods, and the energy circulating all around me. I listened to two men conversing in French, their words like music in my ears, behind me as I stood in line, a line much shorter than the one full of cars in the drive through. Hip music playing, fresh coffee brewing, employees buzzing, guests working, typing, and talking… it was a complete 180 in terms of experience from the day prior at Mc D’s.
There, as I sat in an old formica pebble stone topped booth, I was confronted with the realities and prevalence of poverty. A homeless man I see routinely was seated across from me, with his bicycle parked outside the front sliding screen doors. Reading and journaling, I have grown accustomed to tuning out the noise of his video games or songs that blare haphazardly. We both don knit caps over our heads to keep warm, and are both sipping a cup of freshly brewed and rather affordable cup of coffee, comparatively speaking. What I love about the McDonald’s experience is that each time I choose to have coffee there, I am able to bear witness to all of God’s wonderfully unique creations. The woman and her husband having breakfast turning to the other homeless man and regular visitor behind them asking , “are you hungry? Would you like something to eat? Would you like hotcakes?” Or the man in his warm ups that shows up for breakfast at the same time each morning, who gives a sack of food to the homeless man sitting in front of me. Sometimes, they talk, and the stranger takes a seat with the homeless man and engages in conversation with him about how to use the phone or whatever else he may have in his possession at the time. My heart feels FULL when I see the young hourly paid employees coming over to ask guests, including the homeless, if they need refills on water or coffee. After all, they are paying guests too.
I love to sit and partake of this shared human experience. Listening to the old folks newspaper crinkling as they turn it’s black and white pages while discussing loudly their closest friend’s most recent doctor’s appointment results. Or ….witnessing acts of generosity. Reminded me of the “pay it forward” movement that takes place in drive through lines at Starbucks… when you randomly pay for the order of the person behind you. While this is a great demonstration of sharing and giving, it is not likely that the person behind you who drove in their car to pay $4.00 or more for a coffee is in need financially of the gift. The person who is in financial need, is the homeless man or woman with his own two feet as his sole mode of transport. The man or woman who falls asleep in the booth after a hot and filling meal of hotcakes, sausages, and eggs… getting rest, warmth, and replenishment after a long, cold night outside. The socially rejected and avoided men and women who, being human, crave interaction with others too…. say hello, offer to buy a coffee or a meal inside.. or just give a bag of food. It is all about perspective… the big breakfast that “has so many calories” for one, may be a life -sustaining meal for another. Let’s pay that forward.
The beauty of today’s journey lies in the pulsating, penetrating heart of man. Bearing witness to the love inside of each us… and the cravings we all have to share that love with others. May your feet guide you always on the path toward love. May you continuously choose love for others, and experience the richest spiritual rewards.
Have you witnessed amazing acts of love? Please share, I’d love to hear your story!
*pardon the lack of the accent over the “a”… my keyboard is speaking without french accents at the moment… *