A spontaneously formed poem

Last summer—in fact, I remember it was the first day of my summer vacation from my job as a preschool teacher—I walked for more than an hour on a bike-and-hike path near home. I loved finally having more time to directly pursue my spiritual interests. Working with small children is very demanding and leaves me worn out, most evenings.

Back at my car, I got out a notebook and jotted down some notes for a poem. I imagined meeting an old man on the walking path. In the conversation that took form on the page, he told the narrator, “I’m walkin’ to God!” The old man clearly represented my own spiritual longing.

Initial popularity on Facebook

It didn’t take long for me to write a draft of this poem and post it on a “Writings” page I maintain on Facebook. I Googled “old man with walking stick” and found a photo of someone who looked the part. I used that, adding a photo credit, to illustrate the poem.

From the first day, the piece seemed to strike a chord in readers. In order to reach an audience wider than the people I know, I often pay a few dollars to promote a new poem on my writings page. I target people in English-speaking countries who have interests such as poetry, spirituality and “new age.”

I felt something special in this poem, and a friend of mine volunteered the same thing, unasked. More positive comments than usual also began appearing under the poem right away.

A fruit-bearing experiment

A few weeks later, it occurred to me to try an experiment. I’d promote this poem for a dollar a day for the foreseeable future. I felt it might be of service to bring people face-to-face with the “crazy old man,” and have them come to terms with him. Why was he doing this? Where is God? How do any of us search for God, or, for that matter, for meaning, inspiration and transcendence?

From the beginning, the experiment seemed to bear fruit. I’ve been promoting “Down the Trail” at a dollar a day for six months now. The poem has generated one of the richest veins of interaction with people, from all over the world, that I can recall!

As of February 24, 2017, the poem had been viewed by 197,201 people in America, the U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. (Ireland, in particular, seems to be a whole nation of poetry lovers!)

The poem has now received more than 2,500 “Likes” and 214 Comments. It has been shared 669 times! Each morning I am greeted by fifteen to thirty new “Likes” and several new comments.

Two people using smartphones - Down the Trail

A selection of comments

Many of the comments on the poem show a real understanding of the old man and his earnest but “eccentric” quest. Some reveal an effort to understand. Occasionally, I’ve had a thoughtful dialogue with a skeptic. I’ve left up all the comments, except for a very few rude ones.

Here are a few brief but memorable ones:

At least he is not hanging around like those other guys waiting and waiting for Godot.

This is known as a walkabout. Where you walk till you find yourself and in doing so god.

I enjoy your poem brother!!! Amen!

Let him find Him ….I want to find Him myself…bless your journey my man.

Many of us have sought to find or walk with God, to know and figure into His plan, to somehow find ourselves when we find Him. Or, in non-theistic terminology, to find and become the Real Self. It’s a lonely walk, but much better than not seeking fulfillment—and reason for life itself!

If you’re one of the billion or so people on Facebook, you can see “Down the Trail” and all its comments on this page.

For those who aren’t on Facebook, here’s the poem in its entirety:

“Down the Trail”

I saw a man with a stick and a hat, and he was walkin’.
He looked like he’d been walkin’ a long, long way,
and I asked him, “Where you walkin’ to?”

The man said, “I’m walkin’ to God.”

“You’re walkin’ to God?” I echoed.
“How you gonna know when you get there?”

And he just said, “I’ll know.”

I said, “They say that God is everywhere.”

And he said, “I cannot put no stock in what folks say.
I gotta feel Him. I gotta see Him.
I lost Him, and I will know when I’ve found Him.”

I inquired, “Why you think you’ll feel Him somewhere else, if you can’t feel Him here?”
“That’s not my business,” the man said. “That’s God’s business.
I’m just gonna walk till I find Him.
It don’t matter how far, how long.
He’ll show me.”

“Or maybe I’ll change as I walk,” he continued,
“And maybe He’ll show me He is everywhere!
Maybe He’ll show me He been here all along!
That’s ok. That’s fine with me.”

And the man tipped his hat to me
and continued on his way
until I saw him disappear
down the trail.

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image 1: Max Reif; image 2: Pexels

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