Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.
And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.
From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.
All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.
So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.
May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.
The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!
On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.
It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at email@example.com.
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