I am spending the week in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, a leafy suburb of Philadelphia. It’s fall here, the air is cool and the trees are changing color. As I walked along, my destination was Curtis Arboretum, which was donated to the county by the family that founded and published The Saturday Evening Post. On the way, I passed several incredible houses. This area was extremely prosperous a century ago, and many of the houses are enormous, built of stone, and have broad, sweeping lawns. If these houses were located where I live in California they would be several million dollars each. Here’s an example:
As I stood on the sidewalk contemplating this incredible house, the owner came down the driveway towards me. A long, long driveway. She was at least 70 years old. She was wearing a wool cap and a jacket, was at least 100 pounds overweight, and hobbling slowly down to the end of the driveway to put something in the recycling box with the aid of a cane. It must have taken her at least two minutes to walk the length of her own driveway. Given the fact that I was walking along at a pretty good clip listening to music on my headphones, the difference between our conditions really struck me. I am absolutely sure she would be happy to trade her huge, beautiful house for the ability to just effortlessly walk. I am incredibly lucky. I’ll bet you are, too.
As I entered the Arboretum, I passed by a plaque set in stone next to a pond. The plaque listed the names of township residents who had been killed in World War II. Here is a picture of it:
As you can see, around 71 residents of this small town (population today around 37,000) never came back from the war. To put that into perspective, it’s equivalent, roughly, to New York City having two 9/11-sized events every year for four years. I am incredibly lucky, and you probably are too.
I spent the rest of the hour on a brisk walk through the Arboretum. It is incredibly beautiful, in the way that only East Coast parks like this can be. Huge, open lawns with carefully planted rows of trees in the distance – something like a painting of an English country home. The park, it turned out, was laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead himself, perhaps the most famous landscape architect in history. It is extraordinarily beautiful, and I got to walk through it for free. Here's a picture of part of it:
I am incredibly lucky. I’ll bet you are, too.
Every once in a while, I think it’s important to be reminded of this.