What’s a Talk-Walk?
Into the second month of the new year means it’s a bit late for resolutions, but maybe still a time for checking out what they were and how we’re doing so far.
When I first conceptualised the theme “Families Walk the Talk” for MARFAM’s 2017 Family Year Planner, I had the idea in mind that it would be an invitation or even a challenge to do what should be done about witnessing to one’s faith.
As this is about families, obviously the point is that parents (or other family members) are the first educators of children. This is stated repeatedly in Church documents from the time of Vatican II until Pope Francis.
The Holy Father simplifies it somewhat. He is fond of saying that family members should learn to say “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. These are not just words but express attitudes of appreciation, gratitude and willingness to take responsibility for wrongdoing or hurt. That’s an invaluable tool in building family relationships.
Walking the talk is also a way of saying: “Practice what you preach.” Don’t just talk about being grateful, loving, just, fair and honest but live out these values. Evaluating behaviour is in fact an examination of conscience.
What strikes me is how complex walking the talk can be at any one of many levels. For me there is still some work on mother-in-law level, but this is between mother- and daughter-in-law, and not just one-sided.
Family is always like that. One cannot be family alone. We do often pray alone, for many of us that is all we can do as we watch members of our extended family walking their talk.
However, a very real challenge in our era is communication about this life-walk. Finding time is crucial, making time the only way. Taking a talk-walk once every so often is an excellent idea. Such a talk-walk was once suggested to me by De La Salle Brother George Whyte who encouraged it as a periodic family-bonding event for a whole family of all ages.
Schools and parishes have Big Walks as fundraisers but the emphasis there is on the number of laps covered or who gets there first. A family talk-walk is different. We walk together at the pace of the slowest. We amble along, talking, sharing stories, memories, hopes and dreams. We smell flowers or chase butterflies. As you can see, it almost needs to be done out in nature, not through township streets.
A talk-walk needs to be an experience of beauty and companionship, a retreat even. It probably needs to be a deliberate choice, because such a kind of pilgrim walk experience is foreign to many of us and there may well be resistance to the idea.
Not enough of us walk for pleasure. For too many it is a burden — carrying water, wood or school books, maybe walking for long distances to work. Others “Walk for Life” as more a form of timed exercise while here and there some may be walking for life to protest against the destruction of unborn life, commemorating the implementation of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 20 years ago, in February 1997. Protest marches are different forms of walks too and ones that do incorporate “Walking the Talk”, following an ideal.
So Walking the Talk happens in many ways, but the value of a family talk-walk should not be ignored.
Afterwards there could be a chance to reflect. Did we talk companionably as we walked? Are we conscious of hazards and handicaps faced?
Walking is symbolic, symbolising a journey through life. Walking the Talk is symbolic too, a metaphor for how we engage with life and its issues.
Walking with loved ones is also walking with God in our midst, a provider, sustainer and protector. Walking the talk is a prayer that can be verbalised.