When a walking stick is more than just a walking stick

Becky Neighbors

Becky Neighbors

By Becky Neighbors
Special Contributor

Some women are drawn to diamonds. I am not one of them. Evidently, I am drawn to walking sticks.

It started last October on my early morning walk, when three unfriendly dogs were running loose in my neighborhood. To this day, I am grateful for the rabbit that ran in front of me and distracted them until I could get in my house, as I had nothing to protect myself.

It was not long after that I purchased my first walking stick. We found it at a car show in Wilburton, Oklahoma. It was a beauty—handmade with carvings on the handle. I have carried that walking stick with me on my morning walks since then.

Recently, Jimmie and I went on a trip to the Smoky Mountains to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I took my trusty walking stick with me, and together we hiked some beautiful mountains. It came in handy when Jimmie’s knee started to act up, and for some reason I thought if the bear came down out of the tree over our trail, at least I could whack it with my stick.

It was on this trip that I realized I might have a thing for walking sticks. I bought three more over the course of our trip. Each time we went in a store, I would see the offering of walking sticks and would have to drag myself away. The three I bought were each unique in their own way. To me they were things of beauty.

This morning as I walked with my Heavenly Father, I pondered my walking stick. What was it that made me feel comforted as I carried it? It occurred to me there were several things:

  • Normally, when I am carrying my walking stick, it is on my morning walks and it is on my morning walks that I start my day with God. So as I carry that stick it represents time with Him. It is how I prepare for the craziness of my day.
  • Sometimes, I feel as if I am a warrior carrying my spear into battle. I know I will encounter life (or stray dogs) as the day goes on and with a “warrior” attitude I am ready to face whatever comes my way.
  • My walking stick represents a renewed sense of health. During my “dark days” it was all I could do to make myself walk. Yet, I feel that my walks with God sometimes were the only way I knew to fight the darkness. Now, I walk to keep the darkness at bay.
  • My evening walks with my husband and my walking stick are also a renewed sense of health for both of us. We want to be around to watch our grandchildren grow up and we have big retirement dreams of visiting all the baseball parks in the U.S. while doing volunteer work along the way someday… so we walk.
  • I have a great newspaper guy. He flies through our neighborhood before the sun comes up. He always stops, hands me my paper and tells me good morning. The other morning the crazy little rabbits would not stay out of the street, so I used my trusty walking to stick to herd them back up in the neighbor’s yard so the paper guy wouldn’t squish one. I would no more get one of them back up in the yard before I would turn around and another would be playing in the street. If anyone had seen me herding those four bunnies, I am sure they would have thought I was crazy. It made me think about what God must feel. He shepherds us one way and tries to protect us but we make poor decisions, just like those silly bunnies. I am grateful to say that all the bunnies made it that day.

This time last year if you had told me I would get up at 5:30 a.m. to walk, I would have thought you were crazy. Now, as I place my cup of coffee and my water bottle in the mailbox and I take up my walking stick, I immediately feel the peace of God. It is strange how something so simple can mean so much.

Neighbors, a member of Midland Heights UMC Fort Smith, serves as administrator for the Northwest District of the Arkansas Conference. She also is a district ambassador for the 200,000 Reasons hunger initiative.