Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Preacher’s Corner
By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter

Life in our small town is worthwhile

It was interesting to see Bob Lomenick and the folks at Tyson Drug Store on the CBS News last Monday evening. It is a reminder that so many of the things that we say make life in our small town worthwhile, like our locally-owned pharmacies, grocery stores, hospitals, medical offices, and even churches — are under threat by the relentless trend toward urbanization and mega-corporations. (The interview aired Monday, March 13 on Bob Schieffer’s CBS Evening News.)

Just today I had experience with two kinds of stores that illustrate what I mean. I needed an item that a large “box store” sells. I am not against box stores. They sell many things people need. They have certain things that other local stores do not carry. I went to buy some of these items.

At the cash register, I had several similar items. One lacked the computerized bar-code that the cashier has to swipe. The cashier had to signal an assistant manager to ask what to do about my item that lacked a bar code. There was quite a delay, as the assistant manager was talking to someone. Then, when the assistant manager came over, she suggested the cashier contact the sales staff in the department where the item came from. (This was in the farthest corner of the store.)

Several calls over the loud speaker yielded no response. There was a long line of impatient shoppers behind me. Even though I really needed the item, and even though it was the same price as the similar items I had already had scanned, no one in the store at that moment had the authority to resolve the situation. So I just said, “Let it go,” and checked out with the other items I had.

Next, I went down to the square to pay for a small item that had been delivered to me. It was a nice courtesy that the owner of the store had brought the item by last Saturday as she closed the store for the weekend. It saved me a trip at a busy moment. I wanted to pay for the item, so that the store owner would not have to send me a bill.

The store owner fished out the sales slip from the cash register. “Look!” she exclaimed. Here’s yours. It said, “Charge to Milton!” No last name. I said that there were two other Miltons, at least, in Holly Springs now — Mr. Boyd and Mr. Bell. “You don’t want to bill them for my purchase,” I joked. The store owner said, “That would not happen.” We know all three of you!

So I paid my bill, and went happily on my way.

The old slogan of “Cheers” on TV was “a place where everybody knows your name.” That is why you treasure a local pharmacy, where “Dr. Bob” once came late at night and filled a prescription for me when I had an impacted wisdom tooth; or a local florist, where the ladies once helped me get a “new baby” rose for our church’s altar on a Sunday morning when the stork had made a delivery late on Saturday night; or the local grocery where the owner sometimes gives us a special price for supplies for civic clubs and church activities.

The owners of the clothing store on the square know my size. The teller at the bank does not ask me to show an ID card. The receptionist at the hospital knows when I walk up to her window which patient I have come to visit and is ready with the room number.

When I prepare my sermons, I know many of the troubles, sorrows, sicknesses, and trials of the members who will sit before me to listen.

Big stores, big hospitals, big cities, and big churches are wonderful for certain needs. But do you really want to be buried by a preacher who reads your name off a 3 x 5 card? (We used to baptize babies by this method at the big church I served in Chicago.) I, too, hope Holly Springs will grow and prosper. But not at the expense of the “personal touch.”

If we ever became just another suburb, I think something precious would be lost.

We need to support the things we love about this place. Their future is not guaranteed. Like everything we love, that is why people care about them so passionately.

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