Faire Une Promenade

Posted on: July 21st, 2013 by Kay Swatkowski

 

Our family lived in France for three years. Sunday was our favorite day of the week.

Sometimes we would “dejeuner” with friends from church.  A beautiful roast chicken or cassoulet with the ever present baguette would be followed by a simple salad with vinaigrette, a variety of cheese and fresh fruit. When we were certain we could eat no more,  the hostess would offer a slice of apple tarte, a tray of  les petit gateaux (cookies) or a piece of silken chocolate to accompany the strong coffee.

After lunch, everyone, young and old, would leave the house for a Sunday afternoon walk.  In the words of our French friends we were going to “Faire une promenade.”

This walk was not a jog around the block.

The goal was not exercise.

This walk was long and leisurely. Our “promenade” might lead us past village bakeries and flower shops. We might wend our way through a farmer’s market filled with vocal vendors selling local vegetables and offering the catch of the day.

Often, it would end at a neighborhood park where other families walked and talked.

Children ran ahead, laughing and playing. Adults lagged behind, holding hour long conversations with friends and neighbors, stopping here and there to comment on a store window or slowing down to  simply enjoy the green spaces of the parks.

Our Sunday afternoon walks were satisfying. They filled up so many needs of our lives: the need for nature, the need for friends, the need for family, the need for conversation, the need for fun and laughter.

It was probably our Sunday afternoon walks that saved us from gaining weight from the unforgettable French cuisine. But, I believe the French tradition of a Sunday “promenade” was healthy in another more important way.

It kept people, of all ages, engaged in life, engaged in nature and engaged with one another.

A recent UK study has shown that older adults who shop frequently live longer.  The participants in the study didn’t necessarily need to purchase anything to benefit from the “shopping” experience.

There is a lot of speculation on why these shoppers tended to live longer.  Was it because they were healthy enough to continue to get out?  Was it that they were in a better socio-economic group?

Well, I have my own theory.

They lived longer because they had learned how to “faire une promenade.”  These shoppers were staying engaged in life, engaged in environments outside their own home, engaged with other people.

I have learned this is essential to my mental and emotional health. The more engaged I stay (not engaged in frantic activity) in planned, relational and mentally stimulating activities outside the home, the better I am able to cope with the stress of life.

My husband’s work schedule can occasionally leave me alone on a weekend.  When kids and grandkids are busy,  I find that I need to be intentional about staying “engaged.”  Taking myself to dinner, or to a store to walk around or simply to stroll through the neighborhood is good for me in so many ways.  The sense of activity around me cheers me up and gives me a sense of well-being.

How I would love to find a group of friends who would “faire une promenade” with us on Sunday afternoons.  It was a wonderful and enriching experience.

Think About It

1.  Do you ever find yourself feeling “disengaged” from life or friends?

2. When family or friends are busy, how do you take responsibility for keeping yourself engaged in life?

3. Can you establish a ritual that is similar to the Sunday afternoon walk, that routinely gets you out into the world to engage with other people?




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