It’s been conservatively calculated that at the end of an 80-year lifetime, a person would have walked 220,000,000 steps (7500/day). That is a lot of steps. A college student by the name of Andrew Forsthoefel, after being fired from his job three months after graduation, decided to take a lot of steps, 4000 miles of it (go hear for the entire podcast: This American Life: “Hit the Road”). From Philadelphia to New Orleans to the Pacific, he walked on foot across America with one rule: no rides. But the fascinating thing about his trip was not merely the feat of feet, but it was what he heard along the way. He narrates what he was doing on this long trek:
And as for why, well, I wanted to listen. After all, I was wearing a sign that said, walking to listen. And people told me about their lives, what they’d done, what they wish they’d done, whatever they thought I needed to hear. In Louisiana, a guy who let me camp out behind his trailer told me, all you’re doing is reading a book, just with your feet.
The thing is, we are all walking, somewhere, with someone. Every one of our feet has a story (or stories) to tell, and the longer they’ve walked, more likely that they have much more to say. It kinda reminds me of a blog post by a friend of mine, where we may speak different languages, but there is always a story. So then, what stories do your feet tell? Or better yet, do you care to hear where other’s have gone?
Along the way, Forsthoefel asked many people a similar question, taking all of what they have learned in life, what they would tell their previous twenty-three year old selves. My favorite response came from an elderly Southern belle.
Yeah, I wouldn’t worry so much. I used to worry myself to death. And then now I realize the things you worry about, how many of them come true? Very seldom.
I’d go barefoot more. I wouldn’t be nice. I wouldn’t be the nice little Southern girl. I’d be a bitch.
I wasn’t passive aggressive. I was just passive.
There is, more often than not, wisdom in walking. There is wisdom in age (though age doesn’t necessitate wisdom). But I wonder for us younger folk, how much we are listening. How often do we consign the elderly to obsolescence? More often than not, perhaps? It may do our generation some good to stop running as if we are running alone, to stop and listen to the feet that have walked before us. If we do, we may just not have to take as many useless steps anymore.