Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tomorrow's Amish. . .


Our world is a changing. . . This morning I renewed my license plates online. A very painless process. It took less than 2 minutes, and I’d never done it before. I had to create an account and password, security question, etc., and even with that, in less than 2 minutes my new license plates were on their way to me. . . Compare that to the frustration of years ago, heading to the license branch on the last day of the month with everyone else whose name began with ‘S’, and as you finally found a parking space, glimpsed with trepidation your first view of a line threading out the door and around the building. . . knowing you had to endure at least an hour or maybe even two of waiting for the pleasure of paying for your license plates. . . now less than 2 minutes online and the plates are delivered to your door.

Remembering payday years ago, and heading to the bank with your check in hand, again to stand in line to cash your check, or possibly hoping against hope that the cashier at the grocery store would accept your ID, and cash it for you when you bought your groceries. . . Now with E-banking, and direct deposit becoming so prevalent, both the bank branches, I used to frequent as recently as two years ago, are now both vacant, and for sale or rent.

I still go to the grocery store, but for other shopping, much of it is now done online. Today I buy our dog food from Amazon. I find a cheaper regular price, than the pet store offers and it’s delivered to my door for free. Same with my parrot’s food. I’ve bought shoes, other clothing. . . games, books, movies. . . Video stores. . . does anyone still go to a video store for movies, etc.? I refuse to go to University Park Mall, the large shopping center in the large city to the west of here. Between $5-$10 in gas. . . frustration of the traffic, long long stop lights and parking. . . I just won’t do it.

Even as a child, I remember every neighborhood having it’s own little grocery store. . . replaced by a few supermarkets per town, which in turn were replaced by an even fewer all in one superstores per town, these too I think are now soon to be largely replaced by one or two massive distribution centers per state. I can compare prices, and reviews between the online sellers, and order from the comfort of my easy chair in a small fraction of the time, and expense of going to the stores in person. Returns are as easy as the purchases. . . No long lines at the service counter. . .Tell them you don’t like it for whatever reason, and they give you, no questions asked, a prepaid UPS label to send it back.

Mom and Pop stores are nice and quaint and terribly expensive, and inefficient compared to the large scale automated operations of today’s retail giants. I do remember, and mourn their passing in a rhetorical sense. . . but at the same time I surely don’t want to pay twice as much for my merchandise merely to satisfy this sense of nostalgia.

Convenience, reduced prices, reduced traffic, reduced demand on real estate, and at the same time reduced employment opportunities. I began my working career as a bag boy in a little neighborhood grocery store, where everyone knew your name. The customers were all old friends. Many lived within walking distance of the little grocery store. . . a bygone era.

Really unknown, with nothing comparable today, I remember my mother, having coffee and chatting, almost every morning with the neighbor ladies. Mrs. Adams, by best friend’s mom, who lived across the street. I remember hearing the blood curdling screams, of my best friend’s brother Jerry, the day when he got his arm caught in the wringer of an old style washer, crushing his arm up to the elbow. Mrs. Gunts, my next best friend’s mom after Bobby Adams moved away. . . Mrs. Campbell, who lived next door, and baby sat us when mom and dad would go out. I remember that she croched , and so many miles of thread had passed over the side of her index finger, that she actually had a groove worn in her skin. She was a kindly, heavy set lady, who I think had asthma or some other trouble breathing, and hummed with each breath that she took. Across the street from her, lived Mr. and Mrs. Williams, a retired elderly couple who lived catty corner to us. Mr. Paul Williams was blind in one eye. He had been struck by a piece of coal in the coal yard where he worked and was blinded as a result. Mr. Robinson, who lived catty corner the other way, who was a traveling salesman, he had a high school aged son Bruce, who was only occasionally there, who was my hero. I really looked up to him. . . and then there was the poor Anderson family, who lived at the end of our dead end street. Mrs. Wanda Anderson was psychotic, and heard voices talk to her. Her children, my age and a little younger. . . not well dressed. . . not well fed. . . not well cared for. I remember my dad being party to a little neighborhood vigilante group of men, who one summer, evenings after dark, tried to catch some neighborhood teens who thought it great fun to throw rocks through Mrs. Anderson’s windows at night. . .

I could go on and on I can think of more details of more neighbors spreading out further in the neighborhood, but the point is that everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood when I was growing up. Moms had coffee and borrowed cups of sugar from one another on a regular basis. Dads borrowed lawn mowers, and tools, and helped each other out with projects and tasks. . .

In my neighborhood, I know one of my next door neighbors. We talk across the fence regularly. He and I work together. We watch their dogs when they go out of town. His kids wave or stop and say ‘hello’ if I’m out working in the yard, but my neighborhood familiarity ends there. The people catty corner to us, I wave to, but I have no idea of their names. My other next door neighbor, the same way. I see him mowing his lawn, but I know nothing of him beyond that he lives alone and leaves for work every day about the same time as I do.

Is there anything at all remaining of the world I grew up in today?. . . maybe other than the congregations of churches. I think, in a small way that same sense of community is found in the pews, of our church anyway. In the last 15 years, I’ve watched, and been been a participant in children from toddlers to high school. I’ve watched a young one transform from playing with Matchbox cars and falling asleep beneath the pews, into being a student at Purdue today. . .I’ve prayed for illness, and rejoiced in celebration of successes from many people. I’ve lived births, and deaths, and marriages, and divorces with a couple of hundred former strangers. . . whom I now call brothers, and sister. . .I have found. . . or maybe helped create a place where everyone knows my name as the old Cheers theme song goes. . .and it is a comfort to me. It is strength to me, but for people of today’s world. . . is it maybe too alien, or too threatening, or somehow too unsanitary and intrusive to have strangers enter your life in that manner?

Are we in the twilight of church as we know it? Is the future of the church to be found in streaming services. . . maybe we in the not too distant future will have holograms, and virtual reality headsets by which we attempt to duplicate the power of an anointed preacher, or a shake down the walls Holy Ghost worship service via the Internet. . . I don’t know how that can be. I cannot imagine it, but maybe someday we will look upon this era as the time of the sunset of the Mom and Pop church. . . replaced by huge regional Spiritual distribution centers. . . the local church a faded memory only or possibly found only in quaint backwater communities, like the Amish and their horse drawn carts living in a 4-lane highway world. . .

You can resist change. You can cling to old ways despite the current of the world. Again, the Amish are surely proof of that, but how do we reach the other 99%. . . how do we reach those who refuse to ride in buggies and light their homes with kerosene lamps. . .who refuse to pass through a church door two or three times a week? Are they reachable? I don’t know. . . a question for which, I’m certain there is an answer, but am I willing and able to accept and see that answer. . .I just don’t know. . .

Thoughts on an October morning. . .



No comments: