Saturday, June 27, 2009

One Book One Waco...

The Waco Tribune Herald this morning ran a guest editorial I wrote for Little Chapel on the River. Below is the original article I wrote, before edits...

In 2005 Waco lost one of its beloved pastors to a tragic accident. In the weeks and months after Kyle Lake passed away those of us who were close to him needed a lot of things, but mostly we just needed to be near each other. We gathered at homes, parks, restaurants, coffee shops and bars to laugh, cry, and share stories. This was a time for regrouping. It was a time for solace. Surprisingly, though, it was also a time of discovery.

What many of us discovered is usually spoke of in theoretical terms but seems to become much more tangible, and necessary, in the midst of tragedy. We discovered community. And in the midst of discovering community, we discovered Waco. Many local establishments became safe places for us that provided comfort and a sense of the sacred that exists when people share life together.

In 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center drove her out of her neighborhood, Gwendolyn Bounds found herself in a similar situation. In the midst of her displacement she discovered what seemed to be a buried treasure of history, a place that compelled her to slow down, listen, and to become a participant in the community that was being revealed right before her eyes. In the Hudson River Valley, just across the water from West Point, sat Guinan's, an Irish pub and general store that was ground zero of the life of Garrison, NY for many decades.

I am honored to announce that Bounds' book chronicling the life of this special place is the summer 2009 One Book One Waco selection. Little Chapel on the River is equal parts biography and social commentary. It tells the story of a place that infused vitality and meaning into the lives of the people who entered its doors. In many ways it is also a lament for a way of life that is quickly fading away in our country. Mostly, though, it is a celebration of what happens when people make a conscious choice to be near each other.

The theme for One Book One Waco is "Unity in the Community." It should be noted that unity and uniformity are not the same. In reading Little Chapel on the River you are likely to encounter characters with vastly different lives, values, and beliefs as your own. On the barstools at Guinan’s sat Democrats next to Republicans, pacifists next to soldiers, and Christians next to agnostics. Places like Guinan’s, and the numerous “Little Chapels” that exist in our own city, teach us that while our differences matter, they should never be deal breakers in our search for community.

We already exist in close proximity to each other. We may as well make the most of it by gathering together for a choice beverage, a good meal, and a conversation about a wonderful book.