Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Step by Step She Gets to Know Her Town

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Step by Step She Gets to Know Her Town

Article excerpt

Many mornings between 5 and 6, before most suburbanites are stirring and before the first commuter train heads to Boston, the Rev. Caroline Edge laces up her sneakers and slips out the door for a walk. As she strides along tree-lined streets in Needham, Mass., she savors the pleasure of brisk activity. She also revels in the chance to be alone with her thoughts.

Mrs. Edge, pastor of Carter Memorial United Methodist Church, probably knows this town on foot better than any other resident. Eager for a new challenge, she embarked on an ambitious midlife project.

"I thought, wouldn't it be fun to walk the whole town," she says. That meant covering 536 streets in this 12-square-mile suburb of 29,000 people.

At a time when jogging, marathons, and workouts with personal trainers give exercise an air of solemn intensity, athletes may regard walking as the sport of softies.But as millions of Americans, including many retirees, can attest, its rewards are gratifying. Just ask the peripatetic pastor who has been walking in earnest for a decade.

To launch her project, Edge enlarged a map of the town and divided it up. Then she began covering each section, walking 30 or 40 minutes a day. Back home, she marked the streets she had traversed. "It helped me to get to know the community," she says.

Beyond physical activity - what she calls the "aerobic quality" of walking - Edge finds intangible benefits. "It just clears the mind. Sometimes I'll be working on a sermon. I have done my research, but I'm not ready to write. Then things will fall into place as I'm walking."

Describing walking as "a time of prayer and reflection" for her, she adds, "Sometimes I won't notice people driving by because I might be deep in thought."

Yet she notices other walkers. "I'm from Mississippi. In the South you say hello to everybody you meet, whether you know them or not. …

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