Living Well

Taco Tuesday

I have spent the last couple of days in the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. Our family cottages are here, and Roger and I have come here to open up, turn on the water, vacuum up dead flies, and clean up the dust and debris of winter as we get ready to welcome family during the summer months.

I have been coming here since I was born. My great-grandfather had a farm nestled into the valley; and over the generations since, our extended family has gathered here in the summer to rest and play and enjoy one another’s company in the midst of these beautiful mountains.

I have had the joy of bringing all three of our children here each summer, and even had a few summers when I stayed for a month with my younger two. And as I have transitioned from parish ministry to community ministry, I have arranged my work life so I can spend a couple of summer months here.

The population of our town up here is just a little over 1000. There is one school, K-12, with one class per grade. There is one road that runs through the town, with a Catholic church at one end and a UCC church at the other. In between, there is a small grocery, a few shops (this is a tourist destination), a few eateries, a fitness center, a small nursing home (The Neighborhood House), a library, a small art museum, and a big field where they have community gardens and the summer Farmer’s Market.

It has been increasingly surprising to me that, through all these years (I’m almost 60!), we stayed to ourselves in the family enclave and did very little to connect with the town residents and activities. While on one hand, we had plenty to do and lots of company on our hillside, it began to feel odd to me that we have been enjoying the fruits of others’ labor to keep the town going, and haven’t made an effort to reach out and get to know our town neighbors and activities.

dfsdfSo for the last few summers, I have been making connections – attending church (the best place to get to know people!), going to concerts, getting to know neighbors, signing up to receive the church newsletter and joining the local on-line social network site. As I’ve begun to develop treasured relationships, I’ve also begun to get a sense of how community happens here in this small town in the mountains. So I was delighted to say ‘yes’ when a friend called last night to invite me to join her at a local eatery for Taco Tuesday.

For the last month or two, this small, casual eatery has put a sign out front inviting people to join them for Taco Tuesday. News travels fast in this small town, so the word gets out quickly. It was a gorgeous warm night, last night, so when I arrived, there were cars lining both sides of the street. The front deck was swarming with people – babies, toddlers, teens, parents and grandparents – all sitting together at picnic tables. Inside, a line had formed at the counter where you could order as many tacos as you wanted – a choice of veggie, beef, or chicken – for $3.85 each. My friend and I ordered and headed for a small table. One our way, another friend invited us to join him and other friends at a big table. I saw the pastor and his wife; the librarian; another neighbor; a summer singing friend. I was introduced to several others who seemed to have all the time in the world to sit together, catch up on news, laugh, eat, greet others, and simply settle into the evening.

I was fed by much more than tacos at Taco Tuesday. I was surrounded by the energy and spirit of community; and even though I am a ‘newcomer’ to their circles, I felt welcomed and included, and swept into the joy of connection.

I will look for Taco Tuesday when I get back up here this summer; and can’t wait to join in the spirit and joy and pleasure of being together. And in the meantime, I’ve begun to wonder how and where Taco Tuesday might happen back home in MA. It seems to me that, more than ever, we need times and places to gather as community – simply to know and appreciate one another.

Living Well

Conversion

One of my greatest joys, over the last 20 years, has been the opportunity to work on theatrical productions with a group of friends. Our friendships have grown through this work as a production team; and we have enjoyed several successful shows together.

We have fallen into a rhythm of producing a show every 2 or 3 years; so toward the end of 2011, it felt like time – again – to put our thoughts together about our next show. What show would we like to do this time around?

Through emails and conversations, the names of a few shows were batted around; and we began to assess what factors were important to us in the selection of our next one. As we sifted through ideas, limitations, needs, desires, one show began to emerge as the front-runner – ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ As it became clearer that this was likely to be our next show, I found myself really wondering whether or not I could do it. It is not family-friendly – an important factor for me, especially as I remember how much fun I had taking my children to musicals when they were little. It is campy and cult-y – a 50’s rendition of a very quirky and dark story. Not my speed – give me a good ole’ Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I’m a happy person.

So I was faced with a decision – would I sign on to do a show I really didn’t like for the opportunity to work with our ‘dream team’; or . . . knowing how much time and effort is involved to produce a show, would I say no this time, to relieve myself of a commitment that I figured would be low on the satisfaction scale. Despite my serious misgivings, I decided to say yes – finding it hard to imagine the rest of the dream team involved without me.

I struggled to prepare for auditions – finding reasons to put off listening to and learning the music, and wondering where I would go to find the energy and enthusiasm I needed and wanted to have when we began the process of casting the show. The first night of auditions arrived, and we found ourselves with a good number of people ready to audition. When that night ended, we gathered as a team to begin processing, and I began to experience an energy and a spark. What great people! What great talent! What great enthusiasm! After the second night of auditions, the energy and spark grew, and we prepared for call-backs and casting the next night.

After the third evening, we gathered around the directors’ dining room table, snacks at the ready for a long night of casting. With amazing clarity and consistency, we put together our cast, acknowledging how lucky we had been to have such a talented group from which to choose.

Fast forward three months. We have been rehearsing together for 8 weeks and I’m confident we will be ready to open on April 12 with an entertaining, funny, compelling, and high-level show. But for me, a more important and deeper production has been underway. As the days and weeks of rehearsal have opened, and I have spent many hours each week with the cast and production team, I have come to discover – yet again – the energy of common purpose; the creativity of collaboration; and the transforming power of community. What was I thinking? Little Shop of Horrors? I can’t wait!