Cooking up Community in the Wake of Tragedy

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December 17, 2012 by Meg G.

Well, the last few days have been quite the roller coaster. Like many of you, Friday’s news of the Newtown tragedy kept me plugged into the media for days. The conflicting and confusing reports circled my head as I cooked and prepped for Sunday’s cookie bake-off. Occasionally, I found myself just sitting in front of the television, speechless. When Heather came home from work, we ate dinner in front of the TV, struggling to comprehend the mindset of the perpetrator, the grief of the families, the bravery of so many teachers and first-responders, and the loss of innocent life.

A sign reading ‘Pray for Newtown’ hangs from a stone bridge over Hawley Pond in Newtown, Connecticut USA, 16 December 2012. EPA/PETER FOLEY

A sign reading ‘Pray for Newtown’ hangs from a stone bridge over Hawley Pond in Newtown, Connecticut USA, 16 December 2012. (Peter Foley/EPA/Landov)

There was a moment where I wondered to myself how we could continue to host a big ol’ party in the wake of such unspeakable loss. It felt selfish to continue on as if nothing had happened. But on Saturday morning, as Heather and I discussed the shooting, our conversation shifted to community. Now, I’m no professional, but I do believe that in many of these cases we learn that the perpetrators are largely isolated from community – loners, social outcasts, or misfits. For some reason or another these individuals are not connected to a larger community. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Community can be an amazing, life-giving, and healing thing. To be a member of a family, a circle of close knit friends, a virtual community, a school, a sports team, or a parish or faith community is to have people around who care for one another and are invested in one another’s well being. The challenge, of course, is to build a tent large and inviting enough to include as many people as possible, including those who might not seem, at first glance, as though they “fit” in our little corner of the world. Even more challenging is figuring out how we can reach out to those who, for whatever reason, we find hard to love.

The challenge, of course, is to build a tent large and inviting enough to include as many people as possible…

Heather and I try very hard to cultivate a warm and welcoming community in our own ways. And yes, cooking for people is one way that we do it. So, in the midst of my own sorrow for the Newtown community, I turned to my kitchen. Lovingly preparing a meal and getting our home ready for guests is one way that I can nurture my own community and hopefully, encourage others to do the same.

Our parties are always a total mix of people from all different parts of our lives. We had guests from Boston, Worcester, and Providence make the (icy and somewhat treacherous) trip. What a joy to see these friends making new ones and to hear people say that we have so many lovely people in our lives! (We do!) Even in the midst of a cutthroat cookie competition (complete with trash-talking), I think that people felt that they were a valued member of a welcoming community.

At this year’s party, we also decided to take up a “love offering” for a local non-profit. Heather and I have been volunteering for the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force for about six months. They do amazing work with very few resources, so this was an attempt to educate our friends about the organization’s mission and to encourage some charitably giving. Our support for the Task Force is part of our attempt to continue to nurture supportive, inclusive, safe, and healing communities. If you’re interested in supporting the mission of the Task Force you can find out more here.

LGBT Task Force Logo

Thanks for reading along, friends and for the many ways that you nurture your own communities.

This morning, From Scratch Club contributor Alexis blogged about her own response to the Newtown tragedy. If you have another three minutes, I recommend reading her reflection on how “cooking in the moment” helped her to deal with the media deluge and her own anxiety as a parent and former elementary school teacher. She also includes a link to the Newtown School Support Fund at the end of the post.

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