There is a new nightly ritual in the Haub household right now. Every night after dinner, we throw on shoes and socks and head out for an evening walk together. Typically, dinner is followed immediately by the bath and bed routine for the kids, but since one of the ways to help bring about labor is walking, we are uniting as a family to help encourage Baby Baby to make his/her appearance sooner than later (yes, the irony is great that after six weeks of solidarity in PREVENTING labor, we are now working for the other side).
During the day, I always take the double stroller anywhere that I go with the kiddos. Mercy is a great walker, but Aaron is just shy of trustworthy, and I am nowhere near able to manage a situation where I would have to pick up both kids. So we bring the stroller, and Mercy walks most of the time, riding only if/when necessary. But for these nightly walks, we are all on foot since Doug is in the picture, and it has proven to be delightful on many fronts.
It is great to see the level of engagement the kids have with their environment when they are not stuck in the stroller. They inspect everything, stop to talk to everyone, close gates, climb tree roots, stomp in puddles, and deal face to face with the many neighborhood dogs (Mercy will now walk past houses with dogs out front, and Aaron just stops and walks right up to the gate to say hi to even the meanest sounding pit bulls). They comment on the sunset, the airplanes and helicopters overhead, and the many ice cream trucks that are always out hovering at this time of night.
Because of all the starts and stops, it is probably more accurate to call our evening jaunts “meanderings” rather than walks. We take it slow, which this pregnant lady is perfectly fine with at the moment. While the exercise is not therefore very vigorous, our engagement with our neighborhood is. I feel like in the past week, I have had more conversations and interactions with my neighbors than perhaps at any other time. And we are doing it together as a family, which feels so much more meaningful than when we parcel off to do this or that ministry task. And because we go nightly, people expect to see us and greet us warmly when they do.
We are quite a spectacle to be sure: two platinum blonde toddlers, the tall white guy and the very pregnant woman making their nightly pilgrimage down Kenwood and Raymond. People stare and that is okay. We stare back and those stares turn into smiles and greetings and an increased sense of relationship with those around us. I can tell you now which families are always sitting outside in the evening; which kids from which houses play together in which yards; where the youth most like to gather and in what kinds of groupings, and which cars cruise around too fast.
Now, I walk around all the time in our neighborhood. But it is the pace of our nightly walks that seems to invite a much deeper level of interaction and reaction with others. I am not rushing over to my sisters or scrambling to get to Sunday worship remotely on time: we basically have nowhere we need to be, and nothing really feels like much of an interruption. This has made me think about basic pace of life issues and how little margin there usually is to just slow down and be present in a place or to spontaneously stop and talk to people, investigate tree roots or describe the sunset.
It also made me think about our church of very busy people wishing to be salt and light here in our community. How many evenings of meetings and strategizing events and conversations would simply be better spent on evening meanderings around our blocks.