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Connectedness quickly fleeting

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:04 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

I heard a young weather reporter say the other day that he was shocked by the dozens of heat-related deaths that had occurred this summer in America. He went on to say that he didn’t understand how that could be with air conditioning EVERYWHERE.

I turned him off before I was tempted to call his station manager and ask that he be taken off the air. Most people who either can’t afford air conditioners or the energy to operate them during a heat wave probably have all the problems they need, and having to listen to the comments of idiots certainly does not help their situation.

There are probably many people in this country who aren’t aware that pockets of poverty exist almost everywhere within our nation’s borders. Our national media are sadly preoccupied with the rich and famous, and the challenges of everyday Americans don’t get much air or print space. If our little slice of the planet is so wonderful, a more observant critic might wonder why the demand for hallucinatory drugs and alcohol is so great. And why is the desire to escape so prevalent?

I’m aware that it hardly seems to bother a lot of folks that the divisions among us economically, politically and philosophically seems to grow wider all the time.

I once thought that when you remain in the same location for a long time, you may not be as likely to notice the gradual changes that are going on all around you. I no longer think that’s true as I become more aware every day of the subtle manner in which my world is evolving. Most striking to me is the manner in which, both personally and professionally, we are growing farther apart as a people.

Remember when you had to go to the bank to take care of your financial matters? Well, we’ve eliminated that bank teller; now we can access our account from the computer. We’ve also done away with the service station attendant so we could fill the gas tank all by our lonesome. And if you’re older than 16, you may remember that these kinds of things were supposed to be cost-cutting measures. But as we age, this means there will be more jobs for our caretakers.

Frankly, I don’t see much bonding among groups taking place. In fact, I believe we are becoming even more alienated from each other. I say this because where families once sat down together for meals at the table, now they not only eat separately from television trays but often sit in different rooms. Families that once piled in one car for weekly joy rides now all drive around individually. Where people once worked in offices, sitting side by side and functioned as a team, they are now operating out of individual little cubicles, separated from each other by plastic walls.

We are feeling less in need of personal contact and prefer to use the cell phone for communication. The land line has already become too inconvenient because it ties us to one spot. No one has to have extra-sensory perception to see where this is heading. Our need to feel unattached seems to have outgrown our need to feel connected.

Since we both have been feeling a little low in spirit lately a friend and I have been taking one day out of the week to “discover Missouri” in search of communities that still show visible signs of connectedness. Surprisingly enough, we’ve run into quite a few and it has given an enormous boost to our flagging energies.

Last week, we scoured Amish-Mennonite country in and around Jamesport, where a hearty band of recent transplants have created a warm, vibrant community, matching old-fashioned skills with a tried-and-true work ethic to build a charming and inviting picturesque post card of family farms, tea rooms, candle shops, bakeries, antique stores and furniture factories. It may be one of the last American landscapes where the family wash dresses the backyard clothesline, providing us all with one more backward glance at a vanishing America.

These are tough times to try to rebuild communities. Hopefully we won’t wait until our world grows even scarier before we realize that our fates are bound together. It’s easy to find issues on which we disagree but harder to develop the will and desire to learn to like and respect each other. We owe it to ourselves and each other to give it a try.

You can join in the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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