By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve and I held hands as we walked along the Mississippi River near our home and a fellow parishioner who saw us joked that Steve should get some of my walking credits! So true! Steve held my hand to make the walk easier on my slowly healing leg.
We’d signed up for the summer walking program at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, which is participating in a friendly competition with five other parishes: Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John Vianney in Bettendorf, St. Ann’s in Long Grove and Holy Family and Our Lady of Victory in Davenport.
Both of us had participated in last year’s summer walking program, but as the competitive one, I eagerly walked farther and swam, bicycled and ran longer and watched my pedometer rack up steps.
What a difference a year makes! I considered not signing up this year because of a still-mending bone that sets limits on the exercise I can do and the pace at which I do it.
But our summer walking program literature and the parish bulletin included faith messages that caught my attention. One page, from Living Compass, listed “Faith Steps” along with reflections about each step. This one resonated with me: “Heartfelt and honest. I will only commit to a FAITH Step that in my heart I honestly am ready to take, as opposed to something I think I ‘should’ do or I know others want me to do.”
For me, that means practicing patience with recovery; respecting the temple of the body with which God has blessed me; and expressing gratitude to God for my life, and the health I do enjoy.
The faith aspect of this program didn’t sink in when I participated last year, even though prayer is a component of my exercise routine. That prayer and exercise routine has been altered over the last three-and-a-half months since my accident, but I’m blessed to still have a prayer and exercise routine.
Friendship signifies another component of the summer walking program, a benefit I discovered at the conclusion of last year’s program. That’s when I met Karen, another parishioner, who became a walking partner and friend. We look forward to resuming strolls this summer when I can walk without a boot.
Faith Steps also call participants to stretch themselves – not just their muscles – on a journey of growth in relationship with God. “Faith Steps are things you feel God is calling you to do AND are things you want to do.” They are steps you feel inspired by God to do.
This Sunday, which commemorates the Ascension of The Lord, we read in Matthew’s Gospel: “… Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded of you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20).
I see that passage as a call to be more intentional in sharing my Christian faith through example, in every day life – work, family, volunteer activities, and yes, even exercise.
The concluding words for Week One of our summer walking program set me on the right course: “God of new beginnings, help me to see you in myself. As I begin this journey toward wellness, give me the wisdom to know that my body is your creation. Thank you for this incredible gift, and help me to care for myself as you care for all of creation.”