A Walk in the Park
It can take something as cosmic as the changing seasons to remind me what is good, beautiful and true. Just as we know winter gives way to spring, and summer to fall, I taste God’s goodness and faithfulness in the simplest moments, right in the midst of the chaos and among His most valued creation—people.
Like the first true spring day. After months of gray, light and color return. Neighbors who have been waiting out the dreary winter weather inside tiny city apartments emerge from hibernation to join the rest of humanity.
There is one place where I want to be: in our neighborhood park. I’ve spent my adult life in cities—and I love them. With each move—to very different types of cities—I find myself drawn to the local green space. This has been a surprise since I would never consider myself “outdoorsy.” As it turns out, these places and spaces are about something else entirely: connection and respite right in the middle of the chaos of life. And they have carved out a place in my mind and heart I never could have expected.
The National Mall is where Congress meets the Smithsonian and other storied museums and monuments. But, much as I love its grandeur, the small, beat up square park behind my house was my first stop after work on Fridays. Often, my husband was already there with our dog. In just the few steps from my house to the park, I could shed the burdens of daily life and breathe easy—and watch our pup run around with the others.
In Nashville, I found Shelby Bottoms right after moving. It is seared in my mind as the place of peace I could go during a transition year when I was away from friends and familiar comforts and no other place really felt safe. I’d take my dog and my podcast and just be. Among the Frisbee players and softball fields, I’d found home.
Sure, they have been beautiful and lush, but also small and well-worn. I know they will never compare with the riches we find in the “great outdoors”—those National and State Parks that span thousands of miles and feature glaciers, mountains and lakes. Instead, I love my city parks because they provide a sanctuary right in the midst of the chaos—like a breath for the weary soul right where they need it most. And they are a canvas for the apex of God’s creation—people.
Last August we had the opportunity to take in a masterpiece of God’s creation right there in our neighborhood park. We joined professional eclipse-chasers and next door neighbors alike to experience “totality.” As the total eclipse turned day into night for just a few short minutes, we found ourselves part of an uproar of spontaneous cheers and shouts. The communal response was overwhelming and unexpected and enthralling. It turned the experience from memorable to magical.
So today, whenever we arrive at whatever park is “ours” for the time, I know we will find our place among college students and families. Lifelong locals and refugees. Lost tourists and determined runners. Together, we bask in the lush beauty and can’t stop smiling. It actually doesn’t matter where you’re from or how much you make. In that moment, I’m reminded of the beauty of a diverse city. As it turns out, we have much more in common than appearances would indicate. Rich or poor, young or old, we can’t resist the chance to enjoy a beautiful day.
I would never have known any of this if I didn’t have a dog. One of the many reasons I am thankful for my dog, actually, is for the walks. Not runs—walks. Too often my daily routine keeps me in inside, running on a hamster wheel of life’s daily tasks and worries. My stress keeps me looking at whatever screen I am looking at. My anxiety keeps me consumed with tomorrow’s not-yet-known problem.
But walking my dog is unlike any other activity in my day. It’s the most unactivity-activity. I end up right where I started. But I return home with a refreshed soul and a clearer mind.
It’s a separate thing entirely from running or exercise because I have no agenda or goal. When I run, my tendency is to focus inward. My mind is typically consumed with my goals, pushing forward through each (painful) step. But walking my dog forces me outside my head, and into the beauty around me. I am actually moving slowly enough to see the faces, to hear the sounds and experience the wonders God is offering right there, right at my fingertips.
People use the cliché “a walk in the park” to describe something that takes no effort to achieve and is often of little value. But on that first spring day—and every cool morning and mild Saturday and crisp fall evening—I’ve found a walk in the park to be the only thing that cures. When my anxious heart wants to run and strive, God reminds to be still and know Him, be quiet and find rest in Him. Right there, in the midst of the storm and chaos, He provides a reminder: He is there.
Today's writer is a former Communications Director in the U.S. House of Representatives.
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
The secret's out: we really believe in spending time in nature with our Creator. This week, fight back the sun-sets-way-too-early-now depression by having your coffee in a nearby park, either before work or with a colleague during the day. In a city park, everyone is created equal and titles and status are insignificant: consider how taking that mentality back into your workplace would revitalize relationships or lead you to a new, creative solution for a policy initiative.
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Liberatus is a community journal about bringing truth and beauty to American politics from the inside, because people who work in politics are tired of dysfunction. Writers who join us creatively explore healing for work culture, communication, and personal well-being.
Journal Entry #109