Johns: Simple childhood rules still apply

Hold my hand. Watch for cars. Be nice. Share your toys.

These words were guidelines my mother gave me when growing up.

Simple words. Simple, but hard, when you are seven years old and want two more homemade chocolate chip cookies.

My mother gently reminds me, you have to save one for your sister and one for your brother. You are not the only one.

As we grow older, we sometimes forget those simple rules we learned as children.

We tend to exclude rather than include. We don’t always talk to strangers. We don’t want to share our cookies or toys with others.

I often have to question my own motives. Can I hold that person’s hand? Can I share? Can I talk to strangers?

Kristin Schell recently wrote a book, “The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard.”

The premise of the book was to build turquoise picnic tables and put them in yards all over town. What the table did for Schell was allowed her neighbors to come and meet, talk about changing the dynamics of the town, and to create a sense of community. To share. To talk about things that mattered and to break barriers.

Each Thursday at 11 a.m., Schell sat at her table for an hour. Sometimes people came. Sometimes not. The point was the table was there.

The sense of community, and moreover, the sense of communion of coming to that table together to create a dialogue and to cross over boundaries of race, social class and age were the goals. The turquoise table allowed that to happen.

A group was started called Rework to build the tables around the Austin, Texas, area where Schell resides. This group gave jobs to reformed drug addicts and alcoholics and people down on their luck and between jobs to build the turquoise tables as well as small turquoise Adirondack chairs that are sprinkled throughout neighborhoods in and around Austin.

Some neighborhood associations refused the idea of tables, but the chairs were allowed as a symbol of community.

We have a choice in our world today.

Could you imagine how wonderful it would be to have turquoise chairs and tables all over a town symbolizing a dialogue that is taking place that offers answers rather than division? I can see a community garden with turquoise picnic tables laden with food for people to take who are hungry or the people who have garden spaces to sit and talk.

I can see schools, each with a turquoise table, where all children can sit, eat lunch and work out their problems rather than fight it out; where all children feel a part of something.

Simple things. Holding each other’s hands. Waiting for the light to change before crossing the street. Sharing. A turquoise table that could change our community and others by the simple act of communion — coming to the table.

As Robert Fulghum wrote: “And it is still true, no matter now old you are — when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

And have a turquoise table.

Lisa Johns is a former teacher and librarian as well as an activist onrevitalizing downtown Winchester.