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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Small Seeds of Hope: Step By Step

This morning when I started out to take my walk I faced a question I often face: How can I possibly walk the distance I have set for myself?

It would mean walking down my street to its end, up another almost as long, taking a side street, going off from there around a large circle, then...all the way back again? That's almost 2 1/2 miles! How can I possibly do it?

Will my hip flare up like it does occasionally? Will I be able to walk through the discomfort? I almost always can--it's usually just stiffness. I've only had to shorten my walk once. But still, maybe this time I'm going to get stranded with my feet or hip or back hurting too much and I'll have to call my husband to come pick me up. Which wouldn't be the end of the world, but who wants to admit that one's aging body is not working as well as it used to? Who wants to hurt?

The fact that I have been doing this several days a week for several months doesn't seem to stem that initial anxiety and doubt very much. When the swimming pools were open I'd often face the same kind of doubt at the beginning of my swim--how can I possibly swim 3/4 of a mile? That's ridiculous. Even though I'd been doing it several times a week for several years.

But then this morning I spoke to myself, as I usually do. "Bring it back to the present, Dawn. Just start walking. Don't think too far ahead. Notice what's around you. Just put one foot down after the other, and keep going. Step by step."

So I did. There was a cool breeze which made my walk quite enjoyable--such a refreshing respite from the heat we've been having here in central Virginia. I kept going. And going. And lo and behold, I made it all the way out, around the circle and all the way home again. Step by step.

Walking is not the only time I get overwhelmed. As the week rolls around again, I often ask: "How can I write my blog post this week, creating something out of nothing? How can I possibly put into words the wordless yearnings some part of me wants to express?" OR "How can I get past my anxiety--again?" which has tended to grow up, weed-like, during the past couple of months. OR "How can I move from being a (sometimes) balanced 'inward activist' to a (sometimes) balanced inward and outward activist, in a way that I can sustain?"

And how can we as a society move past racial injustice, hatred, divisiveness, greed, selfishness, fear? How can we grow our compassion and put it in to action?


This song offers me hope:

Step by step, the longest march

Can be won, can be won.

Many stones can form an arch

Singly none, singly none.

And by union what we will

Can be accomplished still.

Drops of water turn a mill

Singly none, singly none.

Listen to Sweet Honey in the Rock do their version here.

And yes, you're right--this is not the "Step By Step" made famous by New Kids on the Block back in 1990! The words for this "Step By Step" are from a 19th century mining union rulebook. In 1948 Pete Seeger and his musician friend and activist, Waldemar Hille, arranged and adapted an old Irish tune and so created this deceptively simple--and wonderful-- song.

The lyrics work for inner change as well as for outer, for stepping out to exercise, learning to pray from the heart, learning to act mindfully and in the cause of justice. And for the metamorphosis of a culture based in fear, greed and inequality to to one based in compassion and justice.

The challenge is great, both inwardly and outwardly.

No single step, no single shift, no single action, no single prayer, no single person will bring about the change we want to see, in ourselves or the world. We all need help and support, whether we're trying to heal inwardly or heal our beloved but ailing country.

Hopefully I can learn from my experiences of doubt at the beginning of my walks. Start small, pay attention to the present, and keep walking.

Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won. Drops of water turn a mill. Singly none. Singly none. And by union what we will can be accomplished still. Drops of water turn a mill. Singly none. Singly none.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Shane Rounce, unSplash, cover photo

Matt Tsir, unSplash

Eryk, unSplash


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