In college, my fraternity had a tradition – Sunday night dinner was always pasta night. This made it easier for the guy who cooked for us to start off the new week.
This Sunday, I started a new kind of pasta tradition. This one, unfortunately, doesn’t involve any garlic bread although it’s probably more satisfying than a plate of spaghetti in the long run. And if I’m saying that, it must be good.
I went to my first meeting today for PASTA (Parents Association Supporting Theatre Arts), a new group which will focus on the drama program in the Hanover Public School District. They met once last month while I was away and just received official school board recognition last Monday.
With budgets getting tighter each year, groups like this will gain more and more importance as school boards, not just in Hanover, have to make difficult decisions about funding. While I don’t like that this effort really kicked in because of threats to the existing program, I do like that a bunch of like-minded, energetic people can now get together with a goal in their sights.
Almost 20 years ago, political scientist Robert Putnam wrote an essay which would later turn into the 2000 book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” The book talks about the decline of American participation in certain areas of public life, namely voting and membership in civic groups. Putnam used bowling as an example, indicating that there were more bowlers than there were in the 1950s, but fewer people taking part in bowling leagues.
The book has its critics, and to be fair, I have never read it, but I think of its general message a lot these days as I get myself more involved in the community. I have joined the Knights of Columbus and, more recently, the Lions Club in addition to increased involvement and a position on the board at the Hanover Little Theatre. That’s not to brag or anything, it’s just that I made an effort to not “bowl alone” as it were.
One of the main criticisms I have seen of the book is that people didn’t get less involved, they just did so in different ways, particularly in relation to their children. The many sports leagues and social activities which now require multiple coaches and a board of directors didn’t exist 50 or 60 years ago.
To complete this long metaphorical journey, PASTA is one of those organizations which did not exist in the olden days, but now will serve as a perfect opportunity for parents and members of the community to share their time and talents. A lot of great ideas flew around the room earlier today, and I have full faith this is not just one of those organizations which will serve those people who started it. I think this group is in for the long haul.
Now if we could just get some real pasta at the meetings. Then I know participation would go through the roof!