America’s Populace Resembles a Potluck Dinner

A potluck dinner.

You may be attending one soon, or perhaps have experienced one in the past.

It is fair to say that I have been to over 100 in the last 20 years of my life. These experiences are mostly associated with congregations of my faith. Potluck dinners are an inexpensive way to feed lots of people. Each guest or family contributes foodstuff. It is a give and take situation. But not all contribute.

Which brings me to why America’s populace resembles a potluck dinner. I am going for an illustration depicting the attitude and behaviors of America’s populace. Please forgive me for exaggerating the time of arrival of some the potluck goers. I realize there are exceptions. This is just for fun. The political torrent of candidates and some of their followers are manifesting troubling attitudes and behaviors. So here I go.

Imagine 325 people have been invited (scaling it down a bit, America’s population is near 325 million).

About 30 minutes before it begins a few individuals and families will arrive. They will bring more than enough food for themselves and their families. In fact, most often it is enough to feed two or three families. The committee assigned to pull off the potluck dinner loves these individuals. They are quick to ask the committee if there is anything they can do to help. Many times they don’t ask, they just start helping, because they are inclined to be anxiously engaged in work and service. They see things that need to be done and do them.

About 15 minutes before the dinner begins a few more individuals and families arrive. They too place their food inconspicuously on the table, and see what they can do to help. Combining their efforts with the “30 minutes early” folks they help arrange the finishing touches on the tables—place additional chairs—fill pitchers of water and set out the butter—position the garbage cans. No common work is beneath them. They are more often than not, friendly and gracious with all, regardless of race, religion, or preference. Though they understand and live according to this truth: “Tolerance is not conformity to the world’s view and practices.” These folks are self-reliant not self-absorbed.

Minutes, (moments) before someone begins the event and offers a blessing on the food, a large number of people arrive. These are great people and families, typically jovial, but busy. They love to associate, especially with other adults and mature youth. So when their young children run and begin to make noise with other children they don’t even seem to care. These folks are contributors, care about others, want to do their part, and like the ones before them, desire to teach their children correct principles—even though they have no idea where their children have just run off to. These parents are confident their children understand one concept, “if you are hungry, get in line, and get it yourself.”

However, there are a few self-aggrandizing individuals in those who arrive just before the dinner begins. They prefer a grand entrance. They want to be noticed. They perceive themselves as very important people. For the most part they show up when it is expedient. They are familiar with the cultural hall but not the pews in the chapel. They pretend to be religious but crave civic and social gain. Everyone knows it, and many roll their eyes, but very few want to call out the hypocrisy.  When they perceive all the significant people are gone or not there, they cut an exit. Cleaning up is unusual labor left for the others.

Some of these on time attendees go to great lengths at placing their offering of food in the most assessable and noticeable position on the serving tables. And it is often a very good dish of food. They hover around their dish practically the whole dinner as the line moves through. In a variety of ways they let everyone know they brought that dish. They also watch people’s serving sizes encouraging them to save some for others. They even grab the serving spoon when a wayward child’s eyes are bigger than their stomach.

I am not making this up.

Speaking of the line again, some of those arriving at the time of prayer position themselves near the beginning of the serving line. Immediately following the “amen” they take a few quick strides with others who bottleneck the front of the line. Some of these are young families (fair enough). Some just love food, and want to get the best offerings before everyone else. During prayer, they had their eyes open, visually going up and down the serving tables. Sometimes these people have no regard for the elderly or those with toddler children. Like I said, they are just hungry and want some potatoes and miniature smokies before they are gone. Disgruntled and unappreciative in life, they suffer at times from what Brian Regan calls “captain you planet.” It’s all about them, but not despitefully and not out of filthy stinky pride as the egomaniac described in the previous paragraph. A few of them recognize their selfishness and even gloat in it. That said, they are decent folks, talkative at the table, just need some refining and a little more patience. Their peripheral of others has been stunted. Communication with people has been replaced with social media. Maybe a little less time on the internet could help them.

During or immediately after the blessing on the food into the cultural hall steps nearly the rest of the invitees. Some are irreligious, some are careless, and some are just plain ignorant. And in some instances the words of Isaiah ring out: “The show of their countenance doth witness against them.” They’ll be eating alright, but ultimately it will be the “fruit of their doings” and they “have no knowledge” which results in looking “famished” and “dried up with thirst” (Seits freee Isaiah 3 and 5 respectively). Amazingly they don’t care about their life and they don’t care what you think about their life. Dinner is free, right? Free, free, free, right!!!!

It’s a religious sponsored potluck dinner, but idle, disoriented individuals don’t want any religion. In fact many of them are in open rebellion and have overturned the stepping stones of faith and fortitude their ancestors painstakingly laid down for future posterity. Many in this group of attendees accept the free dinner (they brought nothing by the way) all the while excusing the trail their ancestors blazed in work, honesty and frugality. (Consider the song: “They, the Builders of the Nation). The irony is they are standing in the potluck line right behind their parents. The parents, bless their intentions, are trying. But their young adult children are still counting on them for food, housing, and automobile support. The words of Neal A. Maxwell ring out: “Unfortunately, a few of our otherwise good [young adults] are unstretched, having almost a free pass. Perks are provided, including cars complete with fuel and insurance—all paid for by parents who sometimes listen in vain for a few courteous and appreciative words.”

And then there is Generation Z (post millennials), you know the kids you ran off to play and goof around instead of getting in line.

They’re hungry now. Parents are yelling across the cultural hall at them to get in line. They obey. They stand with a dumbfounded look on their faces. Partly because they are confused by the mixed messages and are partly embarrassed because of the ignorant millennials and a few generation x’ers in front of them. They don’t know what to think or how to act because the voices in front of them know only three mantras: “You owe me,” “It’s not my fault,” “I don’t want to feel anything.”

But this rising generation is comforted and cheered by those right behind them in line. Remember the people who showed up early to help? They finally jumped into the back of the line. Smiling, they are content with whatever food is remaining. They pat the young ones in front of them the head and shoulders offering one-liners of counsel and wisdom that may set a few of them on a productive trajectory in life.

Notwithstanding our attitudes and behaviors at such events—like potluck dinners, inevitably people take more than they brought. Some don’t even bring anything and sit complaining, criticizing and comparing, letting their table know that they would have done it this way or that way. Shallow promises, frowning on the rich and the families who seem, and probably do, have it together (and should be providing everything).

My experience is there are always a few people, usually from the committee, who can kindly and genuinely keep the line moving and keep people modest in their servings. Even so, over half the people ignore the committee’s directions.

Oh yea, some of the early comers never were able to get a plate. Food is all gone. Sometimes there is a spoonful left from a few dishes. Whatever the case, they take a few bites and then turn their attention to cleaning up.

It should be stated that a few hard working individuals, still in their work clothes show up. Honestly engaged in providing for their families but with very little time to get to know people, to get to know what is happening in the Church, and what is happening civically. Some gracious soul from the kitchen, or the committee, or from the early comers remembers these people and sets aside a plate for them.

People eat, People leave. On to the next taking. A handful of families and individuals stay to make sure the cultural hall is clean and presentable. It is usually the same families after ever event.

Draw your own conclusions. Add to the resemblance. Mock my illustration. But ask yourself, what kind of a potluck goer are you?

Politically speaking, the next enormous potluck dinner is before us. Will a leader arise who challenges Americans to change, to become better, and to strengthen their immediate and extended family? There are sound gospel principles that can bless our lives and protect our liberties. Maybe we, as an electorate should be careful with someone shouting out promises, and consider someone who understands principles of right living. We all need to check our attitudes and behaviors.

In America not everyone is bringing something to the table and many are taking more than they should. What I am talking about is far beyond the concept of taxes.

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