Donald Miller shared some thoughts yesterday about how to give our stuff meaning. He talked about how our stuff shouldn’t be only for ourselves. Our home and our things become fueled with meaning when we open them up to be shared with others. Miller takes it a step further and suggests that our things gain significance when they are made (or bought, etc.) with the intent of creating community experiences.
This reminded me of this article by Michael Pollan where he describes
the communal ovens still found burning in some towns around the Mediterranean, centers of social gravity where, each morning, people bring their proofed, or risen, loaves to be baked.
The idea is to make the most efficient use of precious firewood and to keep the heat (and the danger) of the cook fire some distance from everybody’s homes. But what appeals to me about the tradition is how the communal oven also becomes a focus for social life (“focus” is Latin for “hearth”), a place to gather and gossip and escape the solitude of cooking at home. Shared meals have always been about community, about what happens among family and friends — even enemies — when they gather around a table to eat; but once upon a time, before every family had its own kitchen in which Mom labored more or less alone, cooking was itself a social activity, one that fostered community and conversation around the chopping board or cook fire long before the meal was served.
Jonathan and I hoped that the stuff we purchased in our early marriage would be used to create community. Things like the kitchen table, couch and chairs were discussed not only in terms of what we like and how we would use those items, but also how they would be used by those who came into our home. Our hope was to have people over often and create a space conducive to eating, discussion, and laughter. But, the hours filled up and as we packed up those things intentionally picked to be used by others it was clear we had fallen short of our goal. Now, in our new home, we begin the process again. It’s a bit different this time as many of the “big” items are included with the space. But, our hope remains that this new space and the stuff in it can become a site for community.