By: Christine Baker
Nyack, NY, USA
Christine Baker and Jessie
It was about 7:15am on September 11, 2001. I overslept by 15 minutes. Those extra minutes kept me from being at the base of the World Trade Center when the towers were struck. Instead, I watched from just across the river in New Jersey as the towers smoked like two giant chimneys and fell to the ground.
I will never forget that awful, acrid smell that surrounded the greater New York City area. I’ll never forget staring out the window long after dark, saying that the glow from the fires burning on the New York skyline looked like the gates of hell had opened.
Every year since 2001, one thought has dominated my mind: I have not done enough to justify the gift of my life.
This past September 11th was the 10th anniversary of that tragic day, and right around the same time of day that the second tower fell, I took Jessie, my four-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, in the car and we went hiking. Each and every minute of that day was not lost on me.
On our way to the trail, we passed a parade of gleaming fire trucks parked in front of the local cemetery for a memorial service, a little boy waving an American flag, and someone helping an elderly person into a wheelchair. I smelled fresh bread as we walked by the local bakery. And then, in a matter of minutes, Jessie and I were in the woods. It was silent and beautiful, and we were alone on the trail. All I could hear was the sound of leaves crunching under our feet and birds overhead.
Edward Everett Hale said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
So often in our lives we focus only on ourselves - bettering our homes, our financial positions, our jobs. And that is noble, but in so many ways, it is selfish. I started Walk4Good because I am tired of standing by and watching the world change in ways that make me sad, and almost embarrassed. I’m tired of turning off the news, disgusted with our nation’s politics, our growing national debt, our skyrocketing unemployment, the constant bickering, and the way, as human beings, we seem more likely to be violent than kind to one another. So often, it’s easier to swear at the person who cuts us in off in traffic than to simply let them pass. Let’s face it - the world is a tricky place. It’s harder to be kind than it is to be cutthroat. I’m tired of doing nothing, of expecting someone else to change things, of assuming if I don’t pick up that piece of trash on the sidewalk, someone else surely will.
I know I am only one person. And I know that I alone cannot change the world, but I can change some of it. This is why I founded Walk4Good, a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to inspire and empower people to practice kindness and to pass acts of kindness onto others.
Walk4Good is literally, and figuratively, a step in that direction. Jessie and I will walk the 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail in a grueling thru-hike beginning June 15, 2012. The hike will last six months in the hope of finding 2,180 people willing to make a dedication to practice an act of kindness. We will walk through wind and rain and swarms of black flies. We will sleep in a tent and give up nearly every creature comfort for six months with the singular hope that, while we might not be able to change the world alone, together we can make a tangible difference and make helping others second nature, something you do without being asked.
So please join Jesse and me. We need 2,180 promises to help someone else by paying-it-forward. My goal is to secure one promise for every mile that we walk. There is no fee for making a dedication on our website, and you’ll not only help make this world a better place, but you’ll also help me realize there was a reason why I slept late on 9/11/01.
Christine Baker is the founder of Walk4Good and president of CB Creative, Inc., an integrated communications consulting firm in Nyack, NY. She is the author of Why She Plays: The World of Women's Basketball (University of Nebraska Press 2008), and was inducted into the Middletown, Connecticut Sports Hall of Fame in January 2011.