Yes, the alarm rings: 5:15 a.m. with the most obnoxious radio station going. I groan and get out of bed long enough to hit the coffee button and feed the cat. Sam waits anxiously, scared to death I might forget him and his food dish. As if!

I get to my early morning meditation meeting and then I am off to the mall. I am using the MyFitnessPal phone app for fitness and it tracks my steps. Today I did 3,500 steps which is not great, but it is early, and it gets done.

I discovered the Mall one day when it was raining, and I didn’t feel like swimming. It was early (8 a.m.) and I wasn’t sure they would even be open. To my surprise, they were and there was a Starbucks right there, waiting with a hot cup of coffee and hot buns. What more to ask for?

The entire loop of the Mall, top, and bottom is, I believe 1.5 miles. I have been back a number of times and have discovered a little-known truth; this has become the senior walk path. A virtual army of seniors in singles and pairs are busy marching the mall perimeter. I have to be careful to not loiter, should I get into someone’s way. I see many of the same people day after day. After their marches, they are at Starbucks or the café section.

Why? Well, it’s heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. It is clean and swept daily. There are restrooms that are clean with toilet paper and soap. The hand dryers work and nothing smells bad. Plus, it is free to walk whereas, even the local Rec Department charges $1.50 per day to walk and use the weights.

These are all good things. But, are they the only things? What about getting out into the crisp, cool Autumn air and filling your lungs, kicking some leaves? What happened to that idea?

The last consideration which is actually, more the first, is that the malls are safe. Security guards prowl around outside in minitrucks and on foot. Shopkeepers are busy setting up their shops for opening. The last item is that the homeless are not welcome.

Wow, let’s all frown at that unhappy thought. The elderly and the very young are really barometers of our society. People in their 60s, 70s, and 80s know very well they no longer have the physical strength to ward off a street attack.  Should one happen, the old adage is ‘Where’s a cop when you need one?” Well, where they are is extremely busy patrolling the streets.

I would not call my little town in the American Southwest poor or economical downtrodden. There is actually a pretty healthy economy here. However, the rise in homelessness is acute here as in many places. Although people are homeless for many different reasons (time for another blog) one unhappy similarity is that the homeless can be unpredictable. This is okay when you are a 35 year- old cop weighing in at 200 pounds of muscle, complimented with a ton of expensive gear. Not so great for the 75-year-old armed with one lightweight walking stick and maybe a phone.

What we see is that the elderly and mothers with babies in strollers are opting to frequent spaces where they can feel safe. I feel the same way. I might not be frail, but I get really tired of getting sized up when I go into a convenience store for a coke. Then to be greeted by the sometimes aggressive “Excuse me, Ma’am. Can you help me out?” If I am feeling generous it forces me to open my purse to search for money. If I’m not feeling generous it allows me to question myself and feel like a stingy jerk for the rest of the day.

So, ‘mo better to walk the mall with a cheery “Good Morning,” to my fellow walkers and have my hands and mind free to focus on what I am there for; taking a walk!