DEACON DAVID CROSS has raised almost £1,000 by walking more than half a million steps during Lent – find out why he’s doing it and how you can help…
Each Lent we are encouraged by the Church to give something up as a way of helping us to come closer to God, to help us remember that without the grace of God none of us can even draw breath.
While reflecting a little before Lent on what I should give up this year, I came across CAFOD’s Lenten Walk for Water Appeal, inviting Catholics in England and Wales to walk in solidarity with a man named Abdela from a small remote village called Afar in Ethiopia, whose major daily task is to walk for up to ten hours in search of water for his family.
In years past I had spent some time in the Philippines and visited Mozambique, where one’s supply of water was never guaranteed, although, I was never allowed to go short of it by my hosts, many of whom were very poor.
CAFOD’s appeal took me back a little to those times and to the people that I met and spent time with while in those countries, sharing in whatever way I could in their plight. As you can imagine, my mind played through the many wonderful and painful memories I had from those experiences.
The wonder of being with people who had so very little and yet would invite you into their little homes and offer a drink and a snack, which if refused would cause them great offence and upset, as they were offering as much as they had.
The sadness and frustration of seeing people evicted from their shanty homes and left with nowhere to go, the children lacking opportunities of education because they had to work or go and seek out water often walking up to 10 kilometres a day.
When I saw Abdela’s story I thought that this year my Lenten effort will be to try to walk, as CAFOD suggested, 10,000 steps a day in solidarity to raise funds for people like him.
CAFOD made it very easy to set up a Just Giving Page. My initial target was to raise £100 for the charity and its water projects. I decided to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as my Just Giving page to let people know of my progress.
To cut a long story short, at the time of writing the total amount raised on my Just Giving page is £750, with over £200 more being donated through Canon Lumley’s presbytery door.
Canon Lumley has been very supportive in letting people know about my progress and how much has been raised. I’m grateful to him for his support. By now we can safely say that because of people’s generosity and kindness I have raised enough to pay for a community water supply in a developing country.
Like over a thousand other people in England and Wales, I began my walk on Ash Wednesday and then continued until I surpassed the 400,000 steps target set by CAFOD.
Each day I said the prayer CAFOD gave us and I read the short reflection on the challenges faced daily by Abdela in his search for water, so I felt I was walking in solidarity with him and millions of other people around the world for whom a reliable and safe source of clean water is just a dream.
I began to think of my own water usage. I have never been short of water in my life. The nearest I have become to being thirsty is the odd occasion when I have been hill walking in high temperatures and consumed all the water I had taken with me.
But for all of my life I have been able to start each day by turning a tap and the safe, clean water that I took for granted came running unlimitedly through the taps at home.
Water to wash and brush teeth, water to take my daily medication, water to make my tea and coffee, water for a daily shower, water to cook food. Even our wine, beer and soft drinks are made with water.
We water our gardens and plants, water is there for our industries, water in our windscreen washers, we baptise and bless people and ourselves with water… our use of water is endless.
Without water life cannot exist. This is a recognised scientific fact. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis highlights the issue of water…
“Access to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary service among the poor”. (Para 30).
My only real challenge was to motivate myself to just get out and get walking reminding myself with whom I was walking. I prayed hard that God would give me the grace not just to do the daily 10,000 steps but to do them cheerfully and to do my utmost to appreciate my local environment.
Due to the pandemic I could only walk around my local area. I haven’t moved that far from where I grew up, maybe two or three miles. I began to try to vary or come up with a different route each day.
Lo and behold, I rediscovered many walks and woodland paths that I had not walked since my own children were small – Bassleton and Thornaby Woods, Horseshoe Bend, Tees Barrage and local parts of the Teesdale Way. The walk from home to Preston Park and Hartburn, gets you just over 20,000 steps in.
The walk to Leven, Yarm, Eaglescliffe, Preston Park and back to home is another great walk, Saltholme Nature Reserve… in short, I have rediscovered lots of walking routes around my own area. I reconnected with the nature around and have seen roe deer, little egrets, jays, cormorants, seals, grebes, all kinds of ducks and geese, majestic swans, buzzards, woodpeckers, finches, blackbirds, redwings, sparrows, squirrels and many dogs keeping their owners under control.
Wildflowers, spring blossom on trees, daffodils, coltsfoot and shoots of new life. People who nod, smile or scowl as they pass me, yet others who pause for a socially distanced chat for a few minutes.
I have walked through the cold and the rain, in the greyness of a late winter’s day and in the beautiful clear sharp sunshine that only happens in springtime. Walking each day has given me time to count my blessings, to thank God for all the things he has enabled me to do, for the people he has sent my way, my family, friends colleagues, parishioners, acquaintances… the list is endless.
I have also had the company of others on some of my walks, my wife Carol, daughters Maria and Beverley, long-time friend Jim and a more recent friend, Tony. What a difference it makes, having the company of someone. I found each step taken with these loved ones awakens wonderful memories, generates new ideas, new insights into my own faith and theirs and future adventures dreamed up – where we’ll go walking, once Lockdown is over, but for now we enjoyed the present time together. What a gift and privilege it has been to make this Lenten Effort.
I do feel that God has been gently saying to me each day, “Come on David, you can do this. Remember why you’re doing the walk and who you’re doing it for.” Maybe we should Walk for Water until every human has access to a safe, clean and reliable source of water, enough for their daily needs.
At the time of writing I have completed over half a million steps, 522,143. Although I don’t look like I’ve lost weight, I do feel much fitter. My challenge is now to keep it up!
I think I’ll struggle to do that, but I can but try! Thank you to everyone who has supported me with their prayers, encouragement, through their donations and through their accompaniment. God Bless and Happy Easter – He is Risen Alleluia!