My children and I have participated in the Berkeley CROP Hunger Walk faithfully for a number of years, as a form of spiritual activism accessible even when they were young. In those early years, the Walk appealed to their desire to experience the world with their whole selves, and to their intuitive recognition that compassion entails more than feeling love or speaking out for others — it requires doing something.
Each year, the Walk is a bit different: the route changes, the weather varies, familiar faces are joined by new ones. I have come to appreciate that each spring, the Walk and our conversations around it provide me a glimpse into each child’s faith journey, a snapshot of the wondering and inner narrative that animates that journey. The first time we walked, my children embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly — excited to be outdoors with other kids from church, joyfully wielding signs, meeting up with other congregations and savoring a sandwich from Subway. Our walking could help people struggling with poverty and other challenges around the world with the money we raised. God is good!
Over the years, the tests of faith along the Walk have evolved, from “my toe hurts” to the terrifying possibility classmates might see them and how embarrassing that would be. Deeper questions have emerged. “If God is so great, why are there things like drought and war?” “Why do people need our help — God can help them!” or “What difference can one walk make?” and “Why do we have to do this every year? Didn’t we raise enough money last year?” “Where is God?”
A few years ago, the day of the CROP Walk was unusually hot and humid. My son protested incessantly, “It’s so hot, why do we have to walk? Can’t we just turn in the money?” I was feeling the heat, and life’s challenges had me a bit frayed. “It’s about more than the money,” I told him curtly, struggling not to chide like my parents. “Stop whining and keep walking.” Out of my mouth popped, “You need to put your feet where your faith is.” I had no idea what that actually meant, but it satisfied my son at the time.
I find myself still pondering what it means today. This year, I anticipate push back from my teens (I can already hear their “Again?!”), but also a greater capacity to understand why “Again.” I will get my annual glimpse. And, faithful we will strive to be, putting one foot in front of the other, in the company of others, towards a better world for all, realizing we can question and wonder and walk at the same time. God is there.