Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Stuff of Community

I belong to a group called CenterPeace that meets about every other week for prayer and supper, usually followed by a board game. We've been meeting in one anothers' homes for seven years now.

As we were gathering for supper last weekend at Lois' house in Minneapolis, I saw that she had set the table with a set of china that were familiar. Back in 1991 I had inherited the set from a friend who had died, but didn't really need them or have room to store them, so a few years back I gave them to Lois. It was nice to greet them again and see them being used.

As we were enjoying our meal, I began to think about all the things in my house that came from people in CenterPeace and elsewhere. There's a round coffeetable that came to me recently when Kathy moved. Several chairs and a loveseat arrived last summer when Monica was getting ready to go to minister in Uganda. There's a set of wood-cutting tools that used to belong to Roland, who died about 6 or 7 years ago, and a clear glass tea mug that Genevieve used at a meeting back in the late 80s. I never met Genevieve, but I've heard a lot about her. She was a sister in my community who died just before I joined. I also have a small rocking chair that belonged to Sister Mary Davida, another sister I never met. My nightstands belonged to Marilyn's mother. The pizza cutter and the watering can came from Phyllis' apartment after she died. The screen door was designed and built by Althea. The chairs around the picnic table used to live on my parents' back porch, and made the trip from Colorado stacked in the backseat of my car. Liz gave me a small bookshelf and one of the lamps in the computer room. The other lamp in there was a gift from my mother. There are three original paintings in the living room. Two of them were gifts from the artists. One was done by my grandmother. I fetched it from Missouri in a borrowed van about a year after she died.

Sometimes I see Joyce wearing clothes that I didn't need anymore, and Anne Joachim is still walking around in the Birkenstocks that were too narrow for my feet. I've lost count of the number of people who have peace lillies that I've given away whenever I repot my plants. Sue took the rectangular coffee table that never really worked in my living room when she moved last summer. I don't know who has my old kitchen table. I had put it out on the boulevard with a sign that said, "Free," and someone came by with a pickup truck to get it. Althea enjoys the Adirondack chairs I gave her all summer. They fit her (tall) better than they did me (short).

My motley collection of furniture and household stuff will never make the pages of any home and gardening magazine, but that's ok. Even though some of it is shabby and none of it matches, it's all interwoven with the people who make community here in this time and place. None of it is theoretical. It's all just real, tangible stuff, and mundane, daily actions.

Photograph of Lois' dog, Mosey, taken at a CenterPeace gathering on September 12, 2009.
All photographs by Baya Clare, CSJ unless otherwise noted.

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