A guest post by Christy Lohr Sapp | Associate Dean for Religious Life, Duke University Chapel
At a recent rally in response to the current spate of Presidential executive orders, my five-year old got restless with too much talk and not enough action. She asked with urgency, “When are we going to start marching?!” I, too, have been thinking a lot about marching lately.
On the day after the Presidential inauguration, I did not march in Washington, D.C. or even my state’s capitol. I did not caravan with a group of sisters or post pictures on social media. I did not make a pithy sign or knit a pink hat. With all of the protest marches happening in the U.S. and around the world that day, I was very aware not being outside in the crowd.
That day, I was on-call as a chaplain in the hospital. In this work, and in the spirit of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jewish rabbi and social activist, I felt as if I were praying with my legs. It may not have been a public show of prayer and solidarity, but working in a hospital is a march in its own right. Countless steps are logged, and several days have ended with sore feet and a weary spirit.
As I walked the hospital passageways on January 21, I prayed for all who face the future with legitimate fears about medical care and personal well-being. In translator-facilitated conversations, I prayed for those who are worried about their places in a country that is turning toward isolation and away from hospitable inclusion. Throughout the day as my sisters and brothers were rallying miles away, I was deep in the heart of what folks were marching for: health care, immigration, sanctuary, and religious freedom. These are all things worth fighting for, and this fight comes on many fronts.
I was reminded at a rally a week later that such marching is not an isolated event. Rather, it is a way of life. It happens on a daily basis in myriad ways. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel did not march once or twice and then hang up their shoes. They kept going – day in and day out, year after year, issue after issue. In the face of hostile, sometimes violent opposition, they marched on. They marched in streets, in prisons, in churches and synagogues, and in universities. They marched with their feet, their pens, their voices, and with their lives.
Today, we must similarly expand our understanding of marching to include the constant, steady beat of footsteps in our lives. In this way, our marching becomes a spiritual posture, a prayer embodied daily, that connects our ideals to all aspects of life. Such marching is holy work not confined to one day or one gathering. When our lives become a march, we unite in deeply beautiful ways. While I was not in Washington, D.C. or Raleigh on that cold, damp January day, I was marching with pride and compassion. I was marching with people who were bed-ridden and wheelchair-bound, who were facing death and embracing life. I was marching with people of many races, genders, and creeds, and I felt myself praying with my legs. May we all join in this holy march together wherever our steps may lead.
Photo by Megan Mendenhall | Duke Photo