ONE APPLE AT A
by Joseph Walker
Sterling wasn’t trying to
make the world a better place.
It just turned out that way.
One apple at a time.
To hear Sterling tell the
story, he was just trying to get into better shape. The elementary school at which he teaches is
several miles from his home. His
thinking was that if he walked to and from school each day it would help him
take off some weight that he wanted to lose, and it would help him to stay in
He has been meticulously faithful in maintaining his walking
regimen. I see him on the road every
morning – rain, snow, wind or sunshine – as I drive my daughter to her high
school. Journalistic ethics require that
I point out that we live closer to the high school than Sterling
lives to the elementary school to which he walks. I think there is a lesson in there somewhere
for me or for my daughter, but it’s too early in the morning for moralizing.
Oh, and parenthetically, I should also mention that Sterling’s
exercise program is working. He has lost
a lot of weight, and he says he’s never felt better. Rumor has it that Brad Pitt and Tyra Banks have been signed to do the infomercial.
But this isn’t the story of one man’s battle of the bulge. That’s just background for the really
Along the route that Sterling
walks each morning (and also along the route that I drive) is some open
ground. On that open ground is a corral,
and in that corral are several horses.
One morning Sterling was
munching on an apple from one of the trees in his yard, and he finished it just
as he was coming to the horses.
“One of the horses was close to the fence, so I just reached out and
offered the apple core to him,” Sterling
told me. “Evidently he liked it.”
Which is a little like saying President Bush likes Tex-Mex.
And a tradition was born.
“Before long it was clear that the horses were waiting for me,” Sterling
said. “I started bringing a few apples
for them. It isn’t a big deal – our
trees gave us more apples than we could possibly eat.”
But it is a big deal to the horses.
Most mornings I get to the corral before Sterling
does, and almost always one or two horses are standing along the fence, looking
in the direction from which he will be coming.
If horses could smile – and some say that they do – these horses would
be smiling when they finally see Sterling
chugging up that little hill, a shopping bag full of apples dangling from his
“They do get a little anxious sometimes,” Sterling
acknowledged as he displayed the discolored fingernail that resulted when one
of the horses thought he had an apple between his teeth but only had Sterling’s
finger. “It was really my fault. He was just doing what horses naturally do
when they’ve got something between their teeth.”
And Sterling was just doing
what many good-hearted people naturally do as they travel along life’s
road. It isn’t something they think
about or plan or strategize. It’s just
something they do. They see stuff that
needs to be done, and they do it. They
walk with their hearts and souls, not just their legs. They make the road a little smoother, a
little easier, a little more pleasant for the rest of
us because they walked it. And they make
the world a better place in which to live.
That’s just the way it turns out.
Whether or not that’s what they are trying to do.
E-mail Joseph at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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