I met my friend Laura when I was 13 years old, when a neighbor brought her to our house. We exchanged home phone numbers and very quickly became best friends. Having a best friend was a new experience for me. I was thrilled that someone wanted to be my friend—not a family friend or my older sisters’ friend or somebody I knew from church or school, but someone I could call and talk with and spend time with on the weekends.

At first, my mom agreed to drive me to her house. We’d spend Saturday together, often babysitting her younger brothers and sisters for a few hours, then we were free to hang out. I would sleep over and go to church with her family on Sunday and then go home with my parents.

After a few weeks of this, my Saturday morning plans fell through. Mom said she needed to spend the day deep cleaning and wouldn’t be able to take me. I desperately wanted to go see my friend, but all my tears and pleas didn’t work, and Mom finally told me that if I really wanted to go to Laura’s, I could walk. I think she was surprised to see me pack a small bag and head up the hill, but by this point, I just wanted to get out of the house.

The morning air was fresh, and as I walked past our neighbors’ farms one after the other, I began to notice all the wildflowers growing along the road, and the ways the clusters of trees outlined the pastures and fields. I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten about how angry and frustrated I was.

At the time, I thought that having to walk to my friend’s house that Saturday morning was the “worst” thing. But in reality, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. In solving a problem that morning, I discovered a lifelong habit that has helped me deal with frustrations and concerns throughout my life. It has helped me turn my thoughts into a walking prayer vigil and has brought me tremendous peace—not to mention, free exercise. Through walking, my thoughts have become melodies, my worries have become prayers, and my silence has become a meditation.

In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.—John Muir (1838–1914)

Walking is man’s best medicine.—Hippocrates (c.460 BC – c.370 BC)