As a New Yorker, I am used to being able to walk wherever I need to go. I am an avid cyclist and public transport rider as well but more than anything I walk. It is free and freeing, and in NYC, completely socially acceptable.
“I’m walking here!” Is a common explanation for hurling oneself into multiple lanes of traffic. I feel entitled and privileged in occupying public space.
Not so outside the city.
I walked to a meeting today and felt that colleagues who spotted me viewed the act with pity and horror. I of course viewed their car journey and the resulting landscape with revulsion and despair. Our viewpoints felt irreconcilable.
My discomfort reminded me of my high school years, when I felt so strongly that what I cared about and wanted from life was unacceptable to many around me. I mellowed, found like minded people and moved to a city whose diversity and infrastructure more closely matched my dreams.
My conference was about early literacy and like a lot of educational meetings it was led by folks (like me) who breathe reading, whose culture and families have nearly always affirmed their love of books and who are constantly validated in their choice of profession and their values. We are trying to get everyone to love reading as much as we do and in the same way. We are trying to convince other people to match our beliefs in their families.
What is it like to change your values from that of your culture? It is a lonely muddy walk while everyone you know speeds in the other direction.
Would I ever force someone to walk along a major highway with me? Absolutely not.
Educators and librarians need to start with themselves. No more preaching and no more stones thrown at our families, please. What works for you is not the only way.