This wonderful little tale and insight are from Amy Simpson…on the value of community.

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 …

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.

As Americans
in the 21st century, we tend to undervalue the sacred nature of community.
We're all about the family and the rugged individual, the lone hero. We are a
lonely people. I wonder if we realize how desperately this loneliness eats at
our souls.