Living in Community

21 11 2011

BY MARGARET SWARTZENDRUBER, Saginaw, Michigan, USA

There are so many ways to pursue peace.

Every morning except Sunday, my husband, Lowell, and I walk at Fashion Square Mall in Saginaw Township, Michigan. The mall doors open at 8:00 a.m. specifically for this purpose. Everyone is welcome.

Many middle-aged and retired people want to exercise. Mothers push infants in strollers as preschool children walk beside them. Some people use a cane or walker. It is not unusual to see a motorized wheelchair.

St. Mary’s of Michigan sponsors the Fashion Square Mall Walking Club. A table displays a large banner and booklets for people to document the dates they walk. Physicians and other health-care professionals present educational offerings during the year. Each spring the walkers are recognized and receive prizes.

Lowell and I walk five rounds, including the food court, totaling about four miles. The food court is lovely, and many people come to socialize. About 9:00 a.m. the walkers begin to congregate in groups of two to 12 people, drinking coffee, talking, and enjoying themselves.

An older person named Bob had walked at the mall for years. He spoke to everyone, usually making a humorous comment with a straight face. When he missed a day, people asked about him. I recently learned Bob had been quite ill, and several days later he passed away. People still miss him, his smile, and his dry sense of humor.

Usually we leave home mid-morning and go to a local coffeehouse. We see many familiar faces, often someone we know. Many people read a newspaper or a book. Mothers come with schoolchildren. Others come to talk business and make plans while working on their computers. Some people sit alone, enjoying a little quiet before returning to work.

I belong to a group called “Friends of Zauel Library.” This library is a busy, service-oriented community center that offers the latest in information and technology. A main project is an annual used-book sale. I often recognize people coming and going. It is a joy to greet them and chat. Other times I see familiar faces and smile.

Lowell volunteers for Michigan Blood. He drives a van and travels around Michigan to pick up blood at donation centers. As we move through our community we often see people we know. As our eyes meet, we smile and wave to one another. There is a common bond between us, and it brings a warm feeling of acceptance and inner joy.

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