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Simple Pleasures: Lessons from A Little Town in Southern Italy

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Simple Pleasures: : Lessons from A Little Town in Southern ItalyI’ve had the incredible fortune to travel to Italy 3 times for work.  Each time I’m there, I’m amazed by the Italian sense of community.

In the small and quiet Mediterranean town of Brindisi, the municipality closes the downtown main streets every Sunday afternoon in order to set up a kiddy-size merry-go-round perfect for 3-4 year olds.  As the afternoon sun sets, families hit the streets to enjoy an evening with their children.  They walk and talk and hang out together for hours at a time.

The people in this town are not rich in monetary terms, but they sure understand the value of community, togetherness and quality time.  When I witnessed this Sunday ritual in this lovely Italian town, it brought forth memories of my youth in Regina, Saskatchewan.  I recalled how we used to close off the streets for street parties.  I fondly remembered the three-legged race that I ran with my dad as well as hopping down the street in a sack alongside the neighborhood kids.

These days, life is a lot busier.  Kids have school, lessons and places to be, and parents make time for running errands between their own obligations and shuttling children to and fro.  Streets remain accessible around the clock for traffic and the continuous movement that we’ve come to accept as normal.  We do, of course, enjoy the merry-go-round from time to time.  However, now-a-days, this is an activity that happens only on special occasions like Buffalo Days or the town fair.

In Brindisi, Italy, they set aside time each and every week for their community event One that, as far as I know, costs people only the one Euro that they will pay for a gelato (a delicious, lighter version of ice cream) from the local Gelateria.  The Italian lifestyle is one that seems to place great significance on life’s simple pleasures.  Something as simple as strolling the streets while enjoying an ice cream or gelato with a friend or family member brings a great sense of community.  Men and women, young and old, enjoy the reverie of companionship and community.  In my eyes, Italy epitomizes community!  I strongly believe that each and every one of us can learn something from their lifestyle.

Consider what might happen if, on any given evening, you were to give up an hour of watching TV, playing video games or catching up on Facebook.  What if, instead, you opted to take a leisurely stroll with a friend, your child or your parents?  How do you think this would impact your life?  Do you believe that your relationships would be stronger?  Would you possibly feel happier and more connected to those around you?  I’m not talking about permanent, life-changing happiness, but simply about your state of happiness in that particular moment in time. 

While none of us can stop time from passing, it seems that time is something that we all wish we could control.  Simply stated, we all want more time.  Unfortunately, time is limited for all of us.  However, it is also one of the greatest gifts that we can give or receive.  The time that we share and spend with others is precious.  It is during these times that we indirectly build stronger relationships, stronger communities and stronger foundations for health and wellness.

While Italy is one of many places where we can enjoy a wonderful sense of community, it is important to remember that – with a little creativity and extra effort – we can cultivate a strong sense of community wherever we are.  The ability to do so all comes down to how we choose to spend our time.  Do we sit alone in front of a TV or computer screen, or do we engage with family, friends and new acquaintances?

The choice is ours to make.  As for me?  I’ve chosen to take a little bit of Brindisi home with me and remember those glorious Sunday afternoons.

Being a member of a community, especially a healthy community, is a great way to  create positive memories.  What memories do you have that bring a smile to your face and brighten your day? Tell me in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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