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St. Paul said:

 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing (Romans 7:19).

My morning walks with my dogs are sacred. It’s my time to communicate with God and tell his all my woes and heartaches. Share my dreams. Ask for advice, and then listen.

The breeze hums through the gentle swaying Spanish moss hanging from a branch. A lone male cardinal is a burst of color against grey-green leaves. An old tree trunk shows the furious attacks of woodpeckers foraging for unsuspecting juicy insects that have made their home in the peeling bark.

I look up between the towering trees. The sky is Florida blue. A clear, nearly painful bright that hurts the naked eye. A few clouds dance their way across my view, respite to squinting eyes.

I reach for my sunglasses. They’re perched on my head, always at hand. And in Florida, as part of getting dressed as underwear. A must!

I’m a careful walker as I’ve aged. I tend to drag my left foot, so I must concentrate on picking up that foot, or I’ll stumble. How embarrassing would that be!

I give thanks that I can walk. That I can breathe. I could get out of bed by myself this morning and take care of myself. And thus, the dogs and I make our way on the path along the outgoing tide of the Intra Coastal Waterway.

I move on to more lofty matters. I dwell on my early morning Meditation with the Jesuits, studying a book called “Finding God in the Mess.” Meditations for Mindful Living. 

This morning they posed the question –

How could you help those already in a contactless world and reach out in love to them wherever and whenever possible?

I thought of people I could write to or call. And how I could write uplifting stories, hoping it would be just what someone needed somewhere.

I was humming as I walked, one of my favorites. “How Great Thou Art.”  It reminds me of my brother, who passed away on Christmas Eve 2021. People are grieving as the anniversary of his death nears. Yes, I will reach out to them.

And a friend who lost her mother. Another who is lonely.

My list lengthens, and I stop walking to watch a heron fishing. At that moment, life is perfect.

And then God decided to teach me a lesson.

I turned my attention back to where I was going, and in the distance, and closing in, an acquaintance and her dog were approaching.

“Please, God, please, don’t let her stop and talk to me. Please, I’m asking nicely, please, please, please.”

Did God listen? Not one little bit, or if He heard me, He ignored me.

Not only did she stop, but she also turned around and started walking back, joining me.

My peace was gone.

This lady talks. Not only does she talk, but there’s no continuation. She’d change topic mid-sentence, and if I dared ask a question, that would send her down another rabbit hole.

I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years, making it worse. She needed to catch me up on everything she’d done since we last met.

I retreated into shut-down mode. Say as little as possible. Don’t interact. Just listen. That is genuinely all she wants, someone to talk to.

My tiny five-pound poodle could not handle the constant chatter and jumped against my legs, clamoring to be picked up. Which I did.

“What’s wrong with him,” she asked, and I was sorely tempted to tell her she was driving him mad.

When I realized she was heading for the parking area, I decided to continue our walk and told her the pup had just needed a rest.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we parted ways at the parking lot. But as I continued my walk, the guilt set it.

I had so much. Husband, home, friends, pets, and lifestyle others would kill for.

She had nothing except an aging eighteen-year-old little dog. She had no home of her own, living with a friend. No partner. He passed away five years ago.

She was lonely. A familiar face was probably the highlight of her day.

Where were the lofty thoughts and answers I had earlier that morning to the question –

“How could you help those already in a contactless world and reach out in love to them wherever and whenever possible?”

And I had failed miserably in being that highlight of her day. I could’ve taken her for coffee. I could’ve engaged in an honest chat.

And what was it that St. Paul said?

 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing (Romans 7:19).

A sun-dappled path
A Peaceful trail