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COMMUNITY: A LOST ART


I inherited an old trunk that sat in my grandma’s basement. It had belonged to the generation before, who had used it to bring their possessions across the sea from Sweden. It sits in my dining room. It smells a little musty, but I treasure it as a link to my heritage.


I was thrilled to receive the trunk, but even happier when I opened it and saw my bonus surprise. The bottom was lined with pages of a newspaper from May 14, 1912. I framed these pages and hung them on a wall in my house. Whenever I look at them, I find something amusing. They’re full of advertisements for remedies to cure everything from kidney trouble to headaches, dandruff, and excessive perspiration. They contain news stories that remind me of the fleeting nature of some of the things that seem newsworthy today. They also remind me that some things never change.


But page 7, the Society page, makes me a little sad. The Society page contains updates about the travels of Mrs. Northrup, Mr. Graham, the Brooks family, and others. It tells who has out-of-town guests. It provides announcements for bridge parties and an upcoming cooking club get-together. It gives tips for hosting a perfect dinner party or afternoon tea.


Big deal, I know. So Colonel and Mrs. William Allaire had a bridge party--what’s so sad about that? It’s not the bridge parties that make me sad; it’s my feeling that we have lost something these turn-of-the-century folks had. They actually cared to read about these things in their city newspaper.


We can read plenty of gossip in the newspaper any day, but this seems different. These aren’t stories about movie stars, sports stars, criminals, famous addicts, or people who are famous for no particular reason. These were people they actually knew, people they wanted to keep track of. They belonged to a community...


Perhaps community life has become a lost element of our society, its formation a lost art. Where are the bridge parties, ice cream socials, dinner parties, barn dances, and block parties hosted by people who actually live on the block, rather than sponsored by Pepsi?


I used to think it was weird to see silver serving sets, complete sets of beautiful china, ice buckets, crystal glasses, and other entertainment accessories in the homes of people who had been around for a while. It seemed like a waste, but something about it actually makes sense to me. It suggests that people valued hospitality and community and saw those special occasions as worthy of something extra.


(From a sermon by Michael McCartney, Experience the Spirit in Service, 4/14/2011)

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