Community Columns

Upside to high gas prices: Discovering your town on foot

Something good just might come from these high gas prices. We might decide to change how we conduct some of our everyday affairs -- and find an unexpected benefit in the process. A little example of this happened to me these last few days.

I do much of the cooking at home and am in the habit of planning meals only a couple of days in advance. This works. Our local grocery store is not far and I can hop in the car, get what I need and be home in about 20 minutes.

What would it be like if I changed this habit -- not the planning part but the driving part? It seemed possible and I had just had a good experience with shopping by foot on a recent trip to Brooklyn, New York.

So, I thought, "Why not walk to the market to get the food I need for the next few days?"

It worked. It took only 10 extra minutes to walk than to drive. My green bag with groceries for two people for four days didn't get too heavy on the way back. Most of my walk was through the city park, and that's where the fun came in.

The grass felt good. There was a lone crow cawing from the top tip of a pine tree. A large family was having a quiet party at the picnic shelter. A few young men were tossing a baseball. And a couple of lovers had found a place I never would have known about if it weren't on a beeline from my home to the store.

Later that week, I needed some meat for dinner. I thought, "This time I'll try the Mexican meat market on Main Street."

It was a pleasant walk, taking the same amount of time. The owner is a friend of mine. At the cash register, we were able to catch up on our grandchildren. It had been too long.

I took a different way home and discovered a couple of kids eying me from a block away. As I approached, they made their pitch, "Only a quarter for cool lemonade."

In this life, there is not much better than smiling kids serving you a cup of cool lemonade on your walk home.

I admit that I probably got lucky on my first two forays. I was able to go out when the temperature was less than 90 degrees and Gustine is a pleasant town for a walk. I also happened to be out and about when a lot was going on.

Then again, the more we all leave our cars in the driveway and use our feet for short trips, the greater the chance that we will all get lucky, and bump into friends old and new. The more we walk to the store, the more business our local markets will do and the more selection they will carry. Walking might even inspire some of us to make our streets and neighborhoods better places to live. And, of course, more kids will seize the opportunity to put up lemonade stands.

Maybe $4 per gallon isn't totally bad.

Hollingsworth is a pastor and a poet who lives in

Gustine. E-mail him at