Country Lore: Walking Builds Community

Going for a daily walk is good for your health, but it's also good for making friendships and building community.
By Christine Ridout
April/May 2004
Add to My MSN

Even children can play a role in community building by taking a stroll through on the neighborhood sidewalk.
PHOTO: FLICKR.COM/AKA KATH
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Walking for Health

American leaders are planning to launch a national summit recognizing the benefits of walking for he...

BuildSmart Standards Too High?

The Boulder, Colorado, green-building program will get a makeover for its second year.

The Year of Magical Walking

Cam enjoys a magical walk through a winter wonderland while cutting and hauling firewood.

Walking to School Improves Students' Ability to Concentrate

A Danish study has found that concentration improves among students who bicycle or walk to school.

I am an avid walker, who follows the same route every day. I love the rhythmic pleasure of walking, the wind in my hair, the rain on my face and the change of scenery wrought by the seasonal changes.

But there is more to walking than exercise. When I go walking, I also go visiting. Walking creates an interlude in my day when I stop to talk with friends and catch up on neighborhood news. Friendships grow from such small encounters, and I feel my walking has spun a welcome web of friendship around my neighbors and myself. I treasure the people I've met and the community they provide.

Such connections have been possible because of the regularity of my walks. I have followed the same route every day for years, becoming a neighborhood fixture. As I go by, neighbors cannot help but smile and wave.

Over time, waves turned into casual conversation, and casual conversation into warm relationships, and, in some cases, close friendships. It is almost impossible to see the same people every day and not have a friendship grow.

Walking has also increased the variety of people in my life. Through its simplicity, walking eliminates barriers that keep people apart. I talk with neighbors of all ages. We are at different stages of our lives, but my walk brings us together, making it possible to offer each other a mix of practical information, emotional support and new perspectives.

Most special to me are the neighbors whose children are grown. The wisdom of people who have "been there" has helped me maintain my balance as I struggle to raise my sons. I know that if I've had a rough day with a moody teenager, I can go for a walk and run into one of my older friends who will make me laugh. I suspect my children and I are better off for it.

Some of the neighborhood exchanges are utterly mundane: We share advice on how to get rid of the dog's fleas or how to keep our daisies from dying. Sometimes we ask where to get a lawn mower fixed.

And, we share our things and do each other favors, too. I have shared flea spray, swapped flowers, tried out a back-saving snow shovel and watered plants for neighbors on vacation. We have brought each other casseroles when a baby has arrived or someone is ill.

Such are the small exchanges of life that give comfort. They remind me of the old-fashioned, over-the-backyard-fence kind of communication that few enjoy today. Without these simple connections, we feel isolated.

Without walking, I have a hunch I would be one of those women who doesn't know her next-door neighbor. Walking is an antidote — it slows me down, gets me out, gets me talking and socializing, laughing and crying. When I'm walking, I'm visiting. I feel connected, whole and sane.

Not bad for a simple walk.

Christine Ridout
Wayland, Massachusetts








Post a comment below.

 

Stacey_7
3/28/2011 3:04:16 PM
I completely agree! My husband and I go for walks almost on a nightly basis spring through fall. While we haven't yet formed the relationships with neighbors it seems the author has, we have been lucky enough to run into a few old friends along the way.








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.