Monday, October 30, 2006

Walking, Part 2

I walked to work again today, walking the kids to school and then over to my office. It was great to have the extra time to chat with them and to talk about things we might not have in the car. My son, for example, saw our church steeple--what he referred to as the "roof thing"--through the trees as we got closer. He knew we were close when he could see it. This opened up a great dialogue about the purpose of steeples and a few comments about the location of heaven. We saw and greeted new neighbors, who looked at us like our car must have broken down. In fact, a church member who saw me walking home the other day asked me if my car had broken down. All this reminds me of how strange walking other than for exercise is in this day of the horsless carriage. I am reading Albert Y. Hsu's book, The Suburban Christian and came across a quote he included from The Week, May 9, 2003,
Americans are walking less than ever, but not necessarily because they're lazy, say health experts. It's because they can't. There are no sidewalks nearby, the school is miles away, and a six-lane highway separates home and stores"
Hsu also quoted from theologian Robert Banks
One of the key victims of the automobile is the experience of local neighborhood. Since people drive to and from their homes, they do not see, greet or talk with each other much anymore; since they go greater distances to shop and relax, the corner store disappears, and the neighborhood park empties, so removing the chief hubs of local neighborhood life.
Have you been on a walk lately?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Will Huguet said...

John,

Checking out your blog and post on walking, which I enjoyed. Some loosely connected thoughts to add (the purpose of a blog I suppose):

(1) It is ironic how our society has unwittingly set up numerous impediments to walking and discourages (through specialization) manual labor, yet more than ever we as a people are conscious of our appearance and spend unbelievable sums of money on gyms and diets.

(2) I am sure that anyone who has been to the metropolitan cities of Europe notices how thin the people are. I believe this is in part due to the fact that they walk extensively (often to school, work, eat, grocery shop). It is akin to American urban centers earlier in the twentieth century. Although not wanting to overly credit Europeans with something that is in part an accident of limited geography and lack of economic development, it nonetheless speaks to me as somewhat of a romanticized ideal.

(3) Although I do not have a copy handy for reference, Rod Dreher's "Crunchy Cons" touches on this lost urban community, including knowing your butcher, baker, grocer, who are all within walking distance. He makes some emotionally compelling points, which are inline with the sentiment voiced in your last paragraph.

(4) I also believe that this desire to connect with neighbors and merchants all in close proximity (which encourages walking) is evidenced by the rise in TNDs (traditional neighborhood developments). We even have one in the early stages in Shreveport - Provenance.

(5) Despite the foregoing, I note with odd satisfaction a somewhat conflicting desire to raise my family on some quiet country acres and commute to work via the interstate. Those country walks would presumably be motivated simply by the desire to walk (and talk).

In close, in Broadmoor we usually have decent sidewalks (and numerous barking dogs). Of course, that may be because it is a 1940's to 1960's neighborhood. In addition to potentially building community, a walk is always a good way to get away from the tv, phone, and La-Z-Boy, and either think or talk.

Will Huguet

11/01/2006 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger John Henson said...

Great thoughts Will. You have reminded me of my need to pick up "Crunchy Cons." It is hard to break out of the mold we have made for ourselves in urban enviros.

11/08/2006 02:06:00 PM  

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