Walk with Intention

Note: This was originally posted on November 19th as part of Sreejit Poole’s inspiring series on walking with intention. If you have some time, I encourage you to read some of these stories.


When Sreejit Poole first suggested that I participate in this fascinating series, I declined. I eventually agreed, but I was concerned that I would have very little to offer on this subject. I’ve never considered that I walk with intention, but I have always known, generally, where I was going.

When I was a young child in Sunday School, we had to study Memory Verses each week. One that I remember was Corinthians 5:7 – “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” It sounded like one of those platitudes that would be hard to apply when I stepped out of the church, but I think that was because I was too young to understand it and too distracted by my own thoughts to listen to the teacher’s explanation. Still, it seemed a curious notion, to walk by faith, and I have never forgotten that verse. Later, when I was about 12 years old, my father helped put that verse in perspective.

Pittsburgh supplier of meat and cheese and lots of other good food and the ship to CT.
Pittsburgh supplier of meat and cheese and lots of other good food and they ship to CT.

My father was going to visit a doctor, in downtown Pittsburgh, for a check-up. I had the day off from school so he decided to take me with him. We parked in a cheap lot in section of town known as “the strip district.” The area was, and remains, a warehouse district filled with eclectic stores. Today, the “strip” is a tourist destination. In the 60s, it was a scary place but my father wanted to stop at one of those stores on our way home. My mother had asked him to skip the store and park near the doctor’s office. My brother and I had been to this store before with him, but times had changed. Pittsburgh, like many cities in America, was experiencing growing civil unrest. We hadn’t yet had riots, but anxiety was in the air. I was frightened. After we left the car, I asked him if it was safe.

You might think that would have been the time for him to say: I would never put you in harm’s way” or “you’re always safe with me” or something fatherly and reassuring. That wasn’t his style. Instead, he said: “You’ll never be safe if you look like you’re scared. Wherever you are, walk like you belong there.”

My father dispersed wisdom in short bursts like that. Small things. Like the ‘given statements’ in a geometric proof, these things were offered as fact. Unquestioned and unquestionable. Other snippets of wisdom he put out there include:

If you can read, you can do anything.”

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you do it as best you can.”

And of course:

You’re no better and no worse than anyone else.”

He always put that last one in that order.

These excerpts from his core values served to guide me on the various paths that my career and social interaction would follow. Those Sunday School teachers and my paternal grandmother defined the spiritual guard rails at the edge of those paths. The paths were always wide enough for me to have choices, but never wide enough to get into trouble without the conscious realization that I had given up the right to ask “why me?

My father’s emphasis on reading was his way of promoting education. Promoting isn’t the right word, it was more like requiring. He wanted his two children to have the benefits of a better education than he had. The other tidbits were offered (also meaning required) because he also wanted us to deal well with any opportunity that education might provide.

Since those days of walking thorough a scary section of Pittsburgh at his side, his words have followed me into bars, arenas, restaurants, and meeting rooms. I’ve been in these venues as part of the wait staff, the general public as an invited guest. The combination of lessons I received while growing up have always remained with me.

Serving food to dinner guests at a fancy corporate retreat outside of Pittsburgh was, in many ways, no different than being served dinner after a business meeting in which I was a participant. Both situations required me to be comfortable in my own skin and to do the job I had been trusted to do well.

Walking into a sketchy bar in a questionable section of town, feels no more or less uncomfortable than walking into the lounge of a fancy hotel. In each setting, I want to earn the respect of person I sit next to. Besides, I was born in a questionable section of town.

I’ve learned that “to walk by faith” isn’t merely the fervent hope that God will protect me if I place myself in danger. To walk by faith requires an understanding of and the adherence to the tenets of that faith. Walking “as if I belong” doesn’t convey the right of intrusion, it compels me to try to understand the context of my environment. Being “no better and no worse” than others, reminds me that equality and respect start with me.

The boundaries those people established long ago define the “right thing” when I recall that we should always do the right thing. The right thing isn’t always the easy thing. The right thing isn’t always the thing that provides immediate gratification or the greatest long-term reward. I won’t tell you that I’ve always done the right thing. I have always tried. I have also failed often enough to learn that not doing the right thing has consequences beyond the immediate and on a scale that isn’t easily measured.

My father’s simple guidelines for getting through life keep me moving forward. The lessons that we should be guided by our faith in and our understanding of God’s word, keeps me from drifting too close to the side, or draws me back when I cross the line.

To walk by faith remains a goal for me. It’s not something I can point to and say “look at me as an example.” I am proud of the times I’ve been able to stay within those boundaries and I am grateful to the people whose lessons guide me to this day.

My grandmother was functionally illiterate, yet she successfully raised six children after her husband died in an accident at the beginning of the Depression. My father graduated from high school, fought in WWII and walked away from the mean streets where he grew up, with his head held high and the respect of everyone around him. I hope that when I get to the end of my journey, people will be able to say something similar about me.

76 thoughts on “Walk with Intention

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  1. Back in the 1970s I was doing rather well as a money broker in the City of London. A high stress occupation but a rewarding one. We had cause to visit a town called Shilden, in County Durham which is way way up in the north of England and was particularly run down and suffering from the increasing lack or requirement for unskilled staff at that time. I was a keen photographer (still am) and took some time off to take images of the local infrastructure as it was declining. I was out and about and fancied a pint of beer so stopped outside of a small pub. I walked in and the whole pub went quiet. Not only was I the only non-local but – I drew up in a new Volvo. I was wearing a very smart leather jacket. I had hair down to my shoulders and I had a very expensive camera around my neck. As Dan knows, I am no respecter of locations or situations and tend to be my own man but I instantly felt out of place. I carefully drank the pint and strolled out as though nothing had happened! I hope that I walked like I belonged – but I doubt that I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also remember sharing one and only one beer with you in a certain bar on 9th Ave in NYC. That was a place where it was difficult to act as if you belonged, but we did pretty well. Sometimes, you can play the part, but the message is clear.


  2. This is marvelous Dan — well worth sharing again. It really resonates with me. “Take the first step in faith… You don’t have to see the whole staircase… just take the first step” (MLK). A motivational speaker (not sure who now; could have been Mike Dooley) talked about how when driving down a strange highway at night, you can only see as far as the beam of the headlights goes (let’s say 100 ft). But as the car progresses, you see the next 100 ft., and so on. After several years of trying unsuccessfully, I know I need to take a plunge, and move without a job, or I’ll never get back out west. But many years ago I was unemployed for a long time, and I’m so afraid of that risk. Yet the more I delay, the more being in the wrong place whittles away at me, body and soul. Walking with intention; taking the first step; driving as far as you can see. Inspirational ideals; inspirational ideas. Hugs! :D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. I struggled with this post. I never feel that what works for me will work for others, but people took a lot of time to teach me certain things that they felt were important. I am always amazed at how the simple lessons I learned from my dad and his mother can be applied to situations neither of them could imagine. I hope you find a way to take the steps you need to take.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It didn’t seem like I had a choice :) – Seriously, he had a way of conveying that something was important. Sometimes it was subtle, sometimes not, but he did a really good job of preparing me for the unknown. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Quite right!
    I was taught similarly, with perhaps my mother’s emphasis on how doing the right thing was often the hard thing. It still, to this day, makes the answers to decisions much easier. The most unfortunate learning experience I’ve had to this day has been that doing the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing, is often painful, and the only solace is in knowing I’ve done the right thing. Excruciating Life Truths with Joey. lol
    That no better no worse bit follows me too, much as my mother’s emphasis on knowing my place in this world, which is to be humble and kind.
    Y’ever think about how much better the world would be if everyone strove to be humble and kind?
    You’re a good egg.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joey. You’re so right about how much better the world would be. I notice that it’s not just the big, important, obvious things that would be better if people did the right thing or maintained a humble status, it’s very often the littlest things in the course of a day. As for the only solace being that you you know you did the right thing, the fact is, ultimately you have to answer to yourself. Your a good egg too.


  4. As a part of my job with the police, I went on a number of ride-alongs. On my first ride, I asked the cop, “What are you looking for?” He replied, “Anything that don’t belong.”

    This may be interpreted by some as profiling and by others as keeping people in their place but it goes a whole lot deeper than that. Those who are up to no good have intention of belonging to the community and it is that sense of belonging that keeps behaviors in check.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment. The fact that someone doesn’t belong, or doesn’t feel like they belong, for whatever reason, is very easy to notice. The reason isn’t always clear, but I can see why police would pay attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a really reflective post, Dan. Lots of topics covered. I’ve entered many personal and business environments where I didn’t belong but acted like I did and got through it. That’s not to say my insides were not in a constant turmoil but, hey, I did it and survived. But, I guess that may be why at this age I make a conscious effort to avoid unnecessary stress when I can. I just don’t need to go looking for that adrenalin rush when life can gift them to me unannounced. The other thing I saw coming from your Dad and Grandmother was a ‘common sense’ approach which I think somehow has gotten lost through the generations. Great piece very well written to get us all thinking this Tuesday morning. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you Elizabeth. I think we have lost the notion that we can respect people we don’t necessarily agree with and that, even if we don’t change our position, things might be better if we try to understand theirs.


  6. We live in far different parts of the US, yet somehow your father and my mother are/were the same sort of parent: common sense, no frills, reality always, and tell it like it is. For me, it’s insured that I’m an independent soul no matter what obstacles I come across — and I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds very familiar Glynis. My daughter and I are always looking at things and thinking/saying “we could make that” or “we could do that” and I know that it stems from my dad and his mom. People that overcame significant challenges really don’t look at obstacles as being permanent. They passed that spirit onto us I guess. Thanks for the comment.


  7. My father always said we should walk like we belong anywhere we go and I am likely to tell my kids they are no better or worse than others on a daily basis. I am sure you will be remembered for the many things you have done to make this world a better place. Walk in peace, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great story – sounds like your family was full of survivors. I worked in downtown Oakland Ca where you had to walk with intent so I know what you mean. I don’t think I ever looked like I belonged there by I walked fast and never dilly-dallied.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a really great post, Dan.

    “I’ve learned that “to walk by faith” isn’t merely the fervent hope that God will protect me if I place myself in danger. To walk by faith requires an understanding of and the adherence to the tenets of that faith.” Yes, yes, and yes. I’m always telling people that faith isn’t something blind, it’s an action. Putting into practice what you believe. God expects us to learn and be smart about what we do. He didn’t put us in a bubble, shielded from harm. He dropped us right into that crappy, dangerous section of town you described and said, “Read my Book, learn my ways, and I’ll protect you from evil.”

    As with any child, God expects that we’ll eventually grow up and be able to make it. So bury the Word in your heart, and keep Him with you always. Then you’ll never walk alone. Thanks, Dan, for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In my book, you already have my respect, Dan. This post is thought provoking, honest, and really held my attention. I understand perfectly what your Father meant when he said you have to look as if you belong in order not to be afraid. I get it. My feet have been in some pretty iffy places and I did not feel fear. I also know without doubt that Angels really do walk with me. Always! Walking by Faith as you have clarified, is not always the easiest thing to do, yet I like you do strive to live my Life in this fashion. I really liked this post, my friend. I could feel how you really wrote it from your Heart. I was touched by every single word you wrote. Thank you. <3

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you. I know from all of your posts, that we share many of those core values. You express those, often in your words (and in the pictures those angels help you find :) I’m just being silly, you find this pictures because you go looking for them.


      1. A story I leave you with … (smile) I was sitting at a seedy bar with a biker from a gang sitting next to me. When he heard that I was detoxing off of oxycontin that a nightmare of a doctor got me hooked on, he suggested I pretend I am still taking them, go to this doctor and get the pills. Then he said to give him the pills to sell. I saw red. I jumped up, grabbed him by the collar, got right in his face, shouted at him to NEVER say anything like that to me again, and then pushed him back from me in utter disgust. I calmly (on the outside, but shaking in the inside) sat back down to sip on my 7-up. The bartender moved way down away from us with a look of complete fear on his face. I again turned to this biker and said, “If you even think of hurting me, I have a very good lawyer.” I left shortly afterwards with hubby …. this is a LONG story at a time of hubby’s life when he was involved with some really dark people. He’d just lost his father and went off the deep end …. There is more to this story … But yes, I KNOW how to ACT as if I belong. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Honestly? I would have been too bad if you had declined for good to participate. It’s one of your best posts. You are showing us a part of American history through one of the most changing cities in the country. You are showing us a father like any others, and yet…
    And you are showing us the importance of respect regardless of the place and the people who make it. The best way (in my modest experience and opinion) to understand other people.
    Really great post, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Evelyne. Pittsburgh has changed a lot but it is still proud of its melting pot heritage and, in general, still home to some very welcoming people. As others have said here, I wish more people would accept the challenge to begin equality at their own door.


      1. I so agree with you, Dan. And Pittsburg where I have been a few times is a great place to be. I remember talking with waiters, business people and enjoying what they had to say. When we get the chance to do that we realize that many, many places are good and that


      2. Oops! My thumb slipped on the tiny keyboard of my phone…
        When we meet people in different places we realize our more similar we are than we often think. Ot that at least we can talk of our different ways of life. In any case I liked what you and your dad shared, even though kids/parents relationships are never easy. Again, good post.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Dan, I do enjoy your posts and this is a fine one. Your dad was pretty amazing. I love what he told you was brief and to the point. And later on, you realize the depth of what he said and how profound it really was.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dan, I love this post and the wisdom that your parents and grandmother have imparted upon you. May you always walk with faith and I’m pretty sure that you already have the respect (and love) of your own family and friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m glad you were convinced to reconsider your first decision. What I especially love about the punch line is that if we can all remember we’re no better or worse than anyone else, it is much easier to walk as though we belong. I will come back to this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This was so beautifully written, Dan. I got choked up in the middle. Yes, I have been to places full of danger, homes where things were awry in other ways and directions. Your Dad sounds like he was an amazing man. I like how he grew up like mine did, a little sketchy in the finances, but blessed with love and instilled with a good work ethic.
    I have never been afraid of situations but when a woman, who had first been a client at the battered women’s shelter then became a friend, got gunned down on the steps of the Logan County courthouse in 1985, while I was close to her, I did decide to walk away from Lancaster, Ohio. Sadly, where my son and youngest daughter were born. My great Lancaster friends, Nancy and Mike, still attend every function our family holds, weddings, graduations and births. Next Saturday morning, Nancy and I meet halfway between our homes for our bi-annual breakfast. ♡
    Sometimes (in this case) confidence faltered. Once doubt creeps in, backing down (and fleeing) may be the message God’s wisdom imparts. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robin. I don’t think my father’s advice was meant to get in the way of good sense. I also don’t know what his advice would have been had he had a daughter in addition to two sons. We have to assess the world we are in. sometimes, you have to abandon ideas and move on. It sounds like you were wise to consider your options. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in that situation. Thanks for the very nice comment.


  16. Interesting that you’d usher in December with this piece, Dan. Christmas always makes me think of my father. Partly, alas, for a sad reason – this December 28 will mark the sixth anniversary of his death. But mostly for a very good reason: my father loved Christmas. He was always the most active decorator in our family.

    I also remember him dispensing lots of fatherly wisdom over the years. He could be very serious or very funny, but he was often witty and always got right to the point.

    He was a man of great faith as well, which made quite an impression on me and my brother. We didn’t go to church or pray merely out of a sense of duty – we talked about it. We understood why. Dad made sure of it. I always smile when I think of the time he said, “Salvation is what the hell we’re here for.” He hadn’t meant to phrase it so ironically (and he laughed when I pointed that out to him), but it was perfect. That was Dad in a nutshell.

    He didn’t just TELL us to do the right thing even when it’s hard. He did it himself, which is better than a thousand talks. Part of our nightly prayers included the phrase, “Help me to stand for the hard right against the easy wrong.” I’m still trying to do that, and thanks in part to Dad, I hope I always will.

    I really had to smile as well when you talked about walking like you belonged. Not because I got that advice from MY father (though maybe I did and forgot that he said it!), but because I have long made that my practice when I’m in a strange city, regardless of my environs. I never want to look like a tourist, or a fish out of water, so even if I AM, I’m always putting my game face on and striding as if I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going. I don’t know if I actually look the part, but it makes me feel better!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this wonderful post, Dan. I’m glad you republished it on your own blog. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this comment Paul. We share so much in having learned from someone who set a daily example of what he stood for. I think that was a big part of my father having no regrets. He died young (60) but he made sure that we were well established on the right road. I think of him often, and I don’t have any bad memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Splendid post of remembrance and wisdom. At its core it wonderfully reflects the reader back to him or herself: how have you conducted yourself? a live lived well? One of the things that springs forth so well is the virtue of humility, based not on self-denial nor self-reproach, but rather awareness of the dignity of all life.

    I am reminded of the Buddhist eight-fold path with its right speech, right action, right livelihood. In any given situation there is the right path of behavior, one which cultivates peace and loving-kindness. I have definitely failed to follow this path many times, and at times, for various reasons (including mental disorders, yet to not use that as an excuse, a hard balance that is) not even tried to do my best and failed. Yet this is not a reason to not try in the moment, whatever past failings one can wallow in.

    Thanks for this wonderful piece. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Your dad sounds like the kind of man that had very practical wisdom – enjoyed his post and my fav was the not being better or worse than anyone else! I often remind folks that when they compare to others they will either be puffed up or feeling less than – and so your dad levels the playing feel and keeps us all in the same humble boat.
    And nice (beautiful actually) expounded on that verse!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure – and for some reason u are not coming up in my reader now! Actually a few blogs are not – so I will have to find a different way to stay on top of this – oh – and side note – at my dad’s funeral years ago – I actually included in some of his one liners in the eulogy I gave – and afterwards so many family members aid it was their favorite part- and so just nice to have these – and my mother’s two most common liners are 1. You are up until you win. (And my spouse also teases about that one –
        Lol – but it is a never give up mantra) and her other one is 2) you are blessed and a blessing – oh wait – and thinking of your other post with the verse – reminded me of a third one for her – 3) we are not moved by what we see cause things are subject to change!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for the comment. I tend to follow people via email these days. The Reader is so inconsistent. I think it was good to hare your dad’s one-liners with those gathered. It’s a great way to remember him.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. In answer to your question about email, technically, it’s easy. Some people have ‘follow by email’ links that you can press on their blog. That will get you an email each time they post, when the post is published.

              The other way is a little easier. You can open the Reader and go to “Followed Sites” and click the “Manage” button. For each site (depending on the version of the Reader you’re in) there will be a ‘>’ icon or some way to edit that blog. You can stop following (please don’t do that for me :) and you can turn on email notifications. You can select daily, weekly or immediate.

              I do a mix of all three. I can’t always read immediately, but I like that they stack up in my inbox in that order.

              Because, sometimes the manage options are hard to find, I like it when people add the email link to the sidebar of their blog.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. THANKS for the reply – I really appreciate it – and I am so done with the reader because it leaves out so many of my top blogs – and always has the same few – anyhow, guess it is okay for some things – but I need a new MO and so thanks for the tidbits.

              Liked by 1 person

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