Thursday, December 22, 2016

And Christmas parties

I have a couple of parties to go to during the run-up to Christmas - my AAUW group, my department, my CWF group.

These are all relatively low-key affairs - no hint of Fezziwig's party (or the modern equivalent from "Scrooged" - the debauched 1968 office party that Frank Cross was trying to deliver mail during). But they are still enjoyable.

I figured out part of the reason why: they are a change. All of those groups, when we meet, there's business to be done: in AAUW, it usually revolves around planning for the scholarship fundraiser, giving out scholarships (or, increasingly: dealing with all the legal minutae small non-profit groups now need to do to avoid running afoul of the IRS or other laws). CWF is partly figuring out where to donate money locally as outreach, partly scheduling things (whose turn is it to prepare communion this month?), planning church dinners, planning volunteer efforts. In my department, the meetings have to do with issues that need to be dealt with, or future planning, or whatever horrible budget thing is coming down the pike.

So it's a relief to go to a "meeting" of a group of people where there is no business to be conducted. Where you can just relax and talk about other things with people. And where there's food - AAUW has a finger-food buffet, CWF is a potluck dinner, the departmental thing is a lunch at a local restaurant. (Also, in AAUW we do a gift-exchange and bring toys for Toys for Tots; at CWF we bring gifts for the local women's shelter. But those are secondary to the food and fellowship).

I think of some of the things I have read about farmer's groups (and others) in small towns in the upper Midwest (the sort of people Garrison Keillor used to more-or-less gently parody with his Lake Woebegone stories) and yes, I see how the things the groups I belong to are echoes of those. How hardworking people enjoy just being able to relax, for once, when they gather. And it is good. It is one of the things about Christmas, I think: remembering it is good to be together, that you have something in common with these people. And to eat food, sometimes food you might normally never have. And that's part of what Christmas is about: stopping and remembering. Remembering that things can be pretty good. Remembering that despite all the awful things that may have happened in the past year (and 2016 had some pretty awful things happen, but then so did 2015 and 2014....), still, there are good things and there is a reason for hope.

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