I’m re-reading Lord of the Rings. The first time through it was a rushed job just to say I had read the book before the films came out.Now it’s a more a leisurely stroll through The Shire. I’ve just arrived in the House of Eldrond where Frodo is recuperating after a hazardous first leg of the journey.
Reading Bilbo’s description of the ‘Last Homely House east of the Sea’ I thought to myself ‘I’d like our home to be something like that. ‘
‘Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. The house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, “a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all”. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.’
Sometimes I imagine loads of Presbyterian churches equipped with nice homely (but not expensive) dining rooms and a lounge for lazy Sunday afternoons (instead of drafty halls) and big pots of soup made from vegetables grown on the gardens that used to be their lawns (or from land donated by a church member with spare land).
When it came to dishes time everyone washed them in a relaxed way not eager to rush home, and the men would be in the kitchen just as much as the women. There would not be someone trying to rush the people out of the hall because he had to lock up and wanted to go home. The last person out can lock up.
If there was soup left over it could be frozen and given to people who are sick or poor, there would be boxes of vegetables to distribute to the needy or just for people in church.
I suppose one of the reasons I have a blog like this is that I can say stuff like this.
It can be quite hard to be around people (family members, friends, people your age) who have kids when you don’t have kids yourself. There I’ve said it.
Sometimes you just feel excluded I guess…
When I get my meat at the butcher we have a bit of banter. He is a nice guy.
When I get my vegetables at the market the guy at the counter knocks a bit off because I’m a regular customer. No need for Tesco Club card points.
When I get my spices at the stall the French lady asks me what I’m cooking and puts some extra in.
When I get my fish from the fishmonger he calls me ‘big lad’ and also recognises that I am a regular customer.
There is joy and even excitement in the weekly shop because there is an element of human relationship. It feels like a fair exchange has taken place in community which strikes me as a very important and even Christian way of doing things. We’re in the relationship business are we not?
However when I go to the supermarket the whole process is anonymous and alienating. It is almost impossible to build up human relationships as the store is too big, the staff wear the same uniforms and have been processed like the fruit they sell so that one staff member look identical to another, in much the same way as one soldier looks the same as another soldier.
It’s not their fault either, they have to do it so that they all uphold brand values and allow the pile of Mammon on the end to keeps on growing. They don’t have time to talk because they are treated like the commodities they sell by the system. Time is money.
It doesn’t make for a joyful experience as the human relationship is deemed unimportant. Ideally supermarkets and big stores would like you to scan in your groceries which would eliminate the one opportunity you have to talk to another person. Even then the person on the tills often doesn’t have time for banter as there is a queue building behind and the general manager is watching from a top window. That is why self scanning tills are the pits.
That’s not to say that small store owners are destined to be nice or particularly friendly, but at least it’s on a human scale you get a handle on. They’re maybe rude but perhaps it more like your neighbour being rude. In a large store it seems more like a stranger being rude.
Supermarkets want to create some type of brain washed super human who only can be nice to customers. I know this because I worked as the door greeter in B&Q for months being the friendly smiling face that greeted the customer at the door. It didn’t matter if you are having a shite day, you had to smile and be nice. And it was the same on the tills or in the flooring section. You had to be nice because the ‘Mystery Shopper’ was always on the prowl, waiting to give the store a poor mark based on your lack of people skills.
You never knew who the mystery shopper would be as the store was too big and too many customers passed through in a day. People are largely anonymous. In a small store or shop a stranger might be noticed.
Not sure what I’m saying. Maybe just that despite their bluster supermarkets and large stores aren’t helpful for community, or not as helpful for community as small independent stores.
As someone married to a assistant minister and a life long church goer who has sat through many Presbyterian communion services in a mixture of confusion, mystery, respect while at the same time wondering what is going on and why something just doesn’t seem right this passage from ‘Food & Faith‘ struck a chord
The ritualized character of the Eucharist sometimes causes people to forget that the supper was a meal. It was not a nibbling session but the place where the disciples came together to obtain their inspiration, strength, and sustenance. The evidence of the early church suggests that the community of followers ate together regularly and often, and that in their eating they tried to bear witness to Christ’s way of dwelling on earth.
Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith