Met J.C. at the laundromat
July 23, 2011, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If there is anything lost in city life I think it’s the intimacy of small community; it’s that easiness and space that seems inherent in country life. You can stroll through a small town waving and smiling, making connections, staying recognizable and remaining individual. The Pocono area is an interesting demographic mixture of country natives and city folk who are moving here from Jersey and New York to escape a pricier cost of living.

 I’m sitting at a picnic table on the back porch of the local laundromat reading my new book (which I’ll blog about later.) There’s a woman next to me leafing through pages of a magazine, looking content, waiting for her daughter to come back with her grandchild. A man comes out of the sweltering building and sits on the bench against the opposite railing. It’s storming now and the rain is pounding the parking lot, cooling the air and drowning the sounds of the busy Main Street traffic. I’m thanking God for it when the man asks my neighbor if she likes the area. She answers slowly, saying the country agrees with her and she likes the quiet up north in Pocono Mountain. She starts comparing elements of Monroe County with areas in Jersey, but starts affirming the importance of the land through her experience living in Jamaica for three years. It’s a slower way of life, she says, as far as distractions go, anyway.

“I’ve carried water on my head many a times,” she says, laughing. “You had to work for what you got.” At this point I can’t help but become involved in the chat, and I begin supporting her with random “mmm hmms” and “you go, tell him” as the man across from her smiles and nods along with her monologue. Then I start asking her questions. We begin talking about the importance of resourcefulness and the existing disconnect between American culture and nature. I appreciate that she helped send her nephew overseas so he could “wake up” a little bit.

“Let me tell you, that changed him,” she said. “He came back here and worked, saved. He started buying land on the island little by little and went and built himself a house.”

It does change you. Living abroad, in a place where resources are not so immediate and instant-gratification is not always available will change you, unless you’re totally closed to it, of course. I tell her about Costa Rica, picking our own fruit, killing a chicken in the backyard, making corn tortillas from scratch. All these things take time. They take energy. It takes an investment of your will and a mindfulness that is often lost in American society. We don’t always think of the work that goes into a meal, or where a plastic-wrapped dish comes from. And it’s not just about the food.

That mindfulness seeps into the culture and the way people deal with one another. I am not attempting to romanticize third-world living (Costa Rica is deemed “developing” and not third world) or idealize one culture over another. I only see the imbalance that America (in general) embodies. Mindfulness, resourcefulness, investing time in others and in a community are vital parts of a high-functioning and harmonious culture.

In America it is too easy for us to forget our roots, to fall into the illusion of consumerism and buy into the false value system that says once we obtain A, B and C then we’ll be happy. I’ve been very passionate about this lately, especially seeing so many children with behavioral issues who seem to lack the joy of youth. It’s not because they lack any basic physical need. On the contrary, many of them have their physical needs met in abundance. There is no lack of toys, food and entertainment at their disposal, but that joy and presence of youth is often still absent.

The woman at the laundromat tells me she’s teaching her grandchildren work-ethic and resourcefulness and I encourage her in this, saying more teachers, parents and educators need to fill this cultural void. We don’t let our children fail enough. We don’t let them explore, imagine or create. I nearly died the other day when a boy at summer camp yelled out, “Imagination sucks. Video games are where it’s at.” I am not dogging on all technology, just criticizing usage in excess.

Besides discussing culture with my laundress neighbor, she talks about wanting to join a writing workshop on Wednesday nights at the local Arts Alliance. I tell her I’m a writer, too and we again connect. I give her my blog site (hope you read this one!) and encourage her to pursue the class.

“It was so nice to meet you – I’m Steph,” I tell her. Her daughter has returned at his point and she answers for her, “She’s J.C.”

“Perfect,” I say, laughing, as it reminds me of this scripture: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” HEBREWS 13: 2


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’ve read every single one of your posts. This one is my favorite so far.
Love you Steph!

Comment by Leandra

Love you, too! Thanks for reading!

Comment by simplyenjoy

It’s so wonderful to have random yet meaningful conversations with strangers. Awesome! Yes, it is important to remember that God entrusts us with children to raise them up right, and I believe this would include NOT letting them be hooked on video games and nonsense. What wonderful play developes when you let them use their imaginiation! What character is built when you make them clean up their toys and hang their own clothes up! What patience is learned when growing their own food (coming soon 😉 ) or letting them help you make a good nutritious meal made out of pure ingredients!

And Amen, Sister-just how exactly do we love others as we love ourselves when our heads are buried in an iPhone or the like?

Great Story! Keep it up.

Comment by Strawberry

Yay for growing food!!!!! It’s all about feeding your hunger. And I mean that on so many levels 😉 You rock!

Comment by simplyenjoy

*imagination* *develops* sorry for the typos

Comment by Strawberry

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