There was an article in The Washington Post last week about cooking for children that probed into a move by some restaurants to dispense with the bland “Children’s Menu” frequently offered, and by parents who are seeking to introduce more colorful, adventurous foods to children at earlier ages. Each family gets to define junk food for itself, but let’s just agree that junk food isn’t very nourishing, and our general well-being is enhanced by real food. Colorful vegetables, whole grains, lean protein. The “Real Food” movement has even rehabilitated lard’s reputation, not to mention the ancient grains no one had heard of until a decade ago – spelt, quinoa, amaranth… Real food, cooked by loving hands and not in a factory, that substitutes the easy tastes of salt and sugar for a depth of tastes far from bland. Junk food can be fun, and temporarily tasty, but nourishment comes from real food.
And because I think about how to do my job better most of every waking moment, my mind jumped as I was reading this article to nourishing children within the community that is St. Alban’s, and specifically nourishing them during worship. Some of you might disagree with me, but I think our children – and I consider them mine too! – deserve to grow up with the nourishment of the traditions our forebears created to worship God within the framework of a liturgy that speaks for a community rather than individuals. And to learn how to take those traditions seriously enough to aspire to do them well. Young acolytes learn to carry the cross and torches with care and dignity. Youthful lay readers always demonstrate that they’ve rehearsed their readings at home, often bringing a real sense of drama and wonder to their reading. And hearing and singing the great hymns and anthems of the Anglican tradition will be something that stays with children throughout their lives. I’ve seen proof of that time and again in former Choristers.
I heard an interview a few weeks ago with author and composer, Joel Beckerman, who has written about this golden age of sound he believes we are living in. He talked about the science of sound that corporations craftily use in their marketing – noting that lots of fajitas get sold when the waiter brings that sizzling pan through the restaurant to someone’s table. Beckerman talked in the interview as well about how sound helps to create a story, that sound is the quickest sense to register in our brains. I don’t know about the science behind his statements, but I know that sound is a far more accurate memory for me than sight. We live in a sound-filled world, and he urges us to think about which sounds are beneficial to our lives. Which sounds elevate our experiences? How can we take charge of sound, so that it doesn’t become intrusive and a steady stream of junk food for the ears?
We can’t control everything in our day to day lives. In fact, as people of faith we often say that we don’t actually control anything, that God is in control. But I submit that we can control a few things – we can choose to be people of faith, we can avoid filling our days with a torrent of sounds we mostly want to ignore, and we can seek out those things that nourish our bodies, minds and spirits. We can help our children learn these things and we can do them for ourselves.