There is a sidewalk, near the center of town, which remembers the footsteps of all for whom it provides safe passage. If you have ever trusted your feet to its solid, paved path, then you will have shared more than you know.
The sidewalk knows your weight, your gate, the times you stop to contemplate. It knows if you are burdened by grief, overwhelmed by joy, or if you are playing with your dog and its new toy. It knows if you had a really good, or a very, very bad day.
This sidewalk knows how you carry yourself, if you are feeling silent, talkative, or glum. It may be made of concrete, unable to speak, but this sidewalk is neither dense nor dumb.
It knows if you have a sore hip or a rock in your shoe. It knows if you are in love, or if you lost someone true–in fact, it’s likely this sidewalk knows more about you, than you do.
No one knows all this sidewalk has seen, nor if other sidewalks do share its ability to remember all that has been. But yesterday, believe me, it’s true, this sidewalk shared with me a story which I now share with you.
A boy and a girl were both very afraid. They had lost something important and did not know where, or how to find it again. They walked next to each other, but did not touch or hold hands. The sidewalk thought, “They are fortunate to have a smooth, safe place to walk, for they are focused inside their hearts and minds, not on what lies ahead.”
They walked slowly, side by side, their feet matching pace and stride. With hands in their pockets and heads bowed, they shared hard things, even though both were afraid for what the other may confide. Each question was followed by an answer, just one at a time. Their trust in the process grew, the tension did subside.
At an intersection of two streets, several blocks from home, the sidewalk was interrupted by a curb and a sign. They stopped, the girl turned to face the boy and asked, “I remember when that changed for us? What made that time with me different for you?”
And the boy responded, “I let go of my fear for what you would or would not be when I realized there is more to love in you now than has ever found me.”
The girl stopped, turned and stared, wanting so much to believe what she just heard. She looked into his eyes, then to his face to confirm. He stared back, breathing deeply, confident in what he had shared. Tears filled her eyes, and then his as well, the salty drops fell from their faces to the concrete below. They held each other and the sidewalk knew something had changed.
Their pace was even slower, their bodies closer than before. Their voices were soft, words spoken less out of fear. They turned often to look at each other, their eyes connected to a deeper truth than words do share. They stopped to cry, to hold each other as often as they did move, for their destination was neither a direction nor a distance, but a path for their hearts to find truth.
When the boy and girl turned, to walk back toward home, they moved hand in hand. The sidewalk would have smiled, if it was able, for it had played an important role, providing safe travel in an insecure land.
Now, this would usually be the end of the story, but the sidewalk knew, their journey has just started, their walking not through. On that same day they called upon the sidewalk again. A little slower, a little further, they shared what was new in contrast to what had been.
As their feet carried them beyond the sidewalk’s reach, their voices grew nearly too low to be heard. The girl turned to thank the boy and said, “You fought for me as no one has before. Thank you.”
Feeling the warmth of her body coming closer to his, he took a deep breath, “So, do you, …” and he paused, smiling, “Did I win?” She laughed and then cried, her forehead falling into his chest. They wrapped arms around each other and then nodding, without words she said “Yes.”
It was not a competition nor a battle to be won, but a safe space into which the girl had come. The boy had let go of all that had been, accepting that he may lose everything in order to give her what little was left of him.
And in that hesitant, last remnant of flow, they found what they had lost, they found what they were looking for. It had been there all along, only hidden from view. The sidewalk was pleased, because the sidewalk always knew.
Now this is of course a story told by an aggregation of rock, cement, and sand. It knows not of computers nor email nor how modern stories transcend. I am, to be honest, a little concerned that from its point of view, always beneath foot and worn shoe that it may have missed something important, it may have misunderstood a word or two.
But this is what I was told, and now I have told you. Take what you will, for this is the story of what a sidewalk observed, a sidewalk which may know a lot about you.