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I have been attempting to soak up the unusually warm temps as of late by walking.

My walks used to be filled with pets and little people, but more often than not nowadays, I walk with only my thoughts keeping me company.

My thoughts and, because I like to chat, other people I discover along the way.

To the older couple sitting on the bench together: Although I only met eyes with the husband while the wife lovingly tended to their dog on her lap, I am glad you smiled and waved back. I realize you didn’t see me at first while I watched you both looking at each other and talking about what I’d like to believe were days gone by. Living with growing confusion and disdain around how so many people have their noses in their phones and are so distracted. Wondering how everyone could voluntarily ignore such beauty all around them because they are too preoccupied with keeping track of how others are capturing their moments online.

But not you. You were choosing to remain focused on what was important, WHO was important, together. And I simply thought that was awesome.

To the young couple walking every which direction following one child while simultaneously pushing your baby around in a stroller: Oh do I remember those walks. Way back when, I can’t say I was too fond of those walks. Because there was more wandering than walking. More whining than appreciating. More sweating than soaking in the sun.

Today, however, I felt a tinge of sadness while watching you. Knowing that my children weren’t stressing me out on my walk because, well, they weren’t with me on my walk. Yes, had I asked any of them to, they would have accompanied dear old mom, but there would be no wandering off to play in the creek or swing on the weeping willow branches because they are growing out of such things.

What do the parenting experts say? You are doing something right if you feel like your kid can make solid independent choices without you. What they don’t tell you in any parents’ guide is that seeing your child make independent choices doesn’t always make your heart swell with pride. Sometimes that realization makes your heart ache for days gone by. Days when you pushed the inconsolable baby in the stroller while chasing down a wild toddler.

To the neighborhood kid who always says hi and acts wiser and friendlier than most adults: I love the fact that you warmly welcome conversation. I am amazed by your life’s journey even at the tender age of 11. As the son of an airman, you’ve seen far more of this world than I have. You acknowledged how different it is to live in the Midwest rather than on the coast. It makes me smile to hear how you are looking forward to playing catcher this summer and why you like that position more than pitching, and how you’ll be painting your nails in neon so your guy can see the right signals.

I hope you enjoyed the movie you were so anxious to see this afternoon. And I wish you luck this baseball season.

To the strangers on my walk today, don’t be a stranger.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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