A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Day #13
Over the recent years I have attempted to understand and embrace the transformational power of nurturing gratitude in my life. It has seemed to intertwine very comfortably with mindfulness—to learn to pay attention with intention. When we have eyes to see, there are always good things around us for which we can be grateful. (And, without being simplistic about looking for the silver lining, I would include that I do believe that—even in the midst of our pain—we can still be grateful for the many daily, moment-by-moment gifts in our lives.)
But this Walk has helped me to contemplate that I still have much more to learn. I have had so many generous people provide me with various kinds of practical support, messages of encouragement, and donations to support the Counseling Assistance Fund—people who simply care about me and wanted to contribute to help make my adventure a success. (It really does take a village to help a walker across the state of Iowa.) I think that I still have difficulties simply accepting such gifts without scheming that there must be a way I can return the favor… get even, you know, balance the scales by figuring out what I can give back in return. Though I am not as eloquent late at night when I am fatigued as when I am mindfully walking and reflecting, I do think that—even as I am sharing an expression of gratitude, if I am somewhere in the future thinking about how to make things even, then I am likely to not be fully present with gratitude in the moment. Sometimes all we have to do is to mindfully and graciously say “thank you.”
In fact, when we are fully present for our expressions of gratitude to others, then both we as the receivers and others as the givers are more likely to experience the power of grace, which has the potential to be transformational for both parties. And I figure that if I can be more mindful about simply being grateful (and not working some angle in my head about paying something back), then perhaps the transformation will include becoming a more generous person… whatever the future holds… paying back, paying forward it doesn’t matter… just becoming more cheerful and generous in my giving in the future! I figure that if I have some guilt in the midst of receiving a gift, then I have more work to do to clear out, “let go” of, some of the obstacles in the way of expressing my gratitude – whether it is to God, to others, or even simply a matter of what is quietly experienced in the heart!
Well, tonight I feel inadequate trying to describe my efforts to learn more about gratitude (more to come in the days ahead). Here in Missouri Valley at an RV area at the fairgrounds, about 10.5 miles away from the Missouri River… my brother Hal and I have been joined by our wives. Tomorrow, Karla, Hal, and Beckie will be here to walk a little with me… and to celebrate the finish with me. In my efforts to learn, I will start with trying to “purify” gratitude with them… all I have to do is to express a heartfelt “thank you!”
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” (Meister Eckhart)
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Did you know that the community of Woodbine developed a unique and historical way of welcoming Lincoln Highway travelers into its downtown? In 1921, the city installed brick on the LH for about six blocks. The bricked section of the road is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today I met Elmer and Bruce, long-term residents of Woodbine over another sub sandwich. We had a friendly chat about a number of things (including the importance of abstaining from alcohol among other moral/religious matters—something that Elmer learned from his grandmother); however, they also directed me to a notable gas station with history on the LH—the Brickstreet Station (see pictures below). What was interesting about this conversation is that Elmer (who reported that he was now in his 90s) said he can remember, just barely, when they were laying the bricks for the street—which he said was completed in 1929. So… I am not certain where the line is between historical fact and legend.
Today I learned that both the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) and the Union Pacific railroad are still vital arteries of commerce, work and employment, family, etc.—all ways that we make connections across the miles. The original transcontinental Lincoln Highway was established to unite the country… and it united Iowa in many ways as well… and U.S. 30 certainly continues that tradition. And the sound of a train is never far away from the LH… whether during the day with the Walk or during the night in the middle of sleep. From our home in Marshalltown we hear the roar, rumble, and horn of the train about one-half mile to the south. (I left today’s gratitude marble along the railroad tracks… as I am still tickled that trains are still so relevant.)
Today I am grateful for Rick & Judy, long-time friends that came up to Missouri Valley from their home near Glenwood. Karla and I became friends with Rick and Judy now almost 40 years ago; and, even though we haven’t seen each other regularly over the years, as kindred spirits we always resume where we left off the last time. I am grateful that we have such friendships. They had heard about my adventure from another mutual friend, Lucia, who lives in MN. It was an encouragement to see them here at the end of the journey across Iowa!
P.S.. I have just over ten more miles to go to get to the Missouri River. I hope to have this journey completed by around 12 noon on 5/4/2016. Then I will likely have another blog at the end of the last day—likely from home… and then, perhaps, some post-journey reflections in a week or so. I know that there is still more to come on gratitude… hopefully something more refined and thoughtfully articulated.
For more information and more posts, please see Mark’s homepage: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark.
Everyone is invited to “Walk with Mark” by helping him reach his goal to support quality mental health services for boys and men. Supporting his 331-mile trek is easy as 1-2-3:
- Walk with Mark via his blog on the Center’s website or Facebook page.
- Walk with Mark by joining him for part of his itinerary.
- Walk with Mark with a donation to the Center for the counseling assistance fund.