Walk back into the swing of life

What do we lose when we don't take care of ourselves?

Balance. Strength. Our sense of well-being.

Lately, I've learned there are other losses we can incur. Peace of mind. Friendship.

Even community.

Years ago, I made a regular practice of walking with my dear friend, Karen. We'd push ourselves up and down the hills around our neighborhood, sweat through our T-shirts when it was hot and try not to slip when it was cold and wet.

Each hour was a gift for us both, a time to tell stories, to argue over politics, to care for each other.

I don't remember when Karen and I stopped walking, but suddenly, during the hot summer, I realized it had been years. I felt unhappy about it, and I missed Karen something awful.

I found the time to tell her how much I'd missed our walks and talks. I admitted my own responsibility for letting us both down. She admitted hers.

We hugged.

Then we both set goals. My first? Walking four miles in less than an hour, to start with. (When you are barely 5-feet-1 and have legs that barely reach the ground, this is a serious goal, people, believe me.)

We've been back on the track for almost a month now, literally. Karen and I have been walking the Concord Greenway on Branchview Drive. I feel stronger, better balanced, healthier. I have nourished and renewed an old friendship.

And I've found community.

Walk a greenway, my friends, and you make friends.

There's the lady who sometimes pushes a stroller with a toddler in it. Other days, she walks the dog. (I guess someone else has the toddler.) We greet each other as though we've known each other for years.

There's a woman who carries a pole and swings it in small circles as she walks. She smiles cheerfully at us when we call out to her.

There's a couple we see every time we are there. Those two are determined and steady; you can see that in their faces.

Practically everyone says "hello" to everyone else. It makes all the difference in the world.

Who are the people of the greenway?

Men and women. Young and old. Of all sorts of ethnic backgrounds - Asian, African-American, Caucasian, Latino, and probably a host of other possibilities.

Folks you know are walking the greenways in your town. I recently saw Sarah Deabler, who was my son's first-grade teacher, and we got to talk over old times while we walked.

We've even gotten to know the folks who work to keep the park and facilities clean. (They like to tootle by on their golf cart and wave cheerfully to all the sweaty exercisers on the path.)

So make a resolution to take better care of yourself. You'll be surprised at the benefits. Strength. Well-being. Peace of mind. Friendship.

And maybe even community.