Thursday, May 10, 2012
The Ancient Ladies of Sherman Street Church
How I got it is beyond me. Someone, somewhere, sent it to me when he or she was probably doing the same thing I'm doing now, cleaning out a room, an office, a den, a junk drawer. That this strange little card lasted all this time--more than a century!--argues for its continued existence. I can't just throw it away.
I honestly don't know a soul who has ever been a member of the Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI. My grandfather, a preacher, spent most of his preaching life in Michigan; but I don't think he ever held forth at Sherman Street. I've never been there; I don't have a clue what the place looks like or did, once upon a time.
I found this little yellowed card perched in corner of my bulletin board, someone's proud gift, I'm sure, long, long ago. "Say, Erv, I bet a guy like Jim Schaap would like this," Ma said to Pa, and probably sent it via USPS.
They weren't wrong. Dang it. Now I've got to figure out what to do with it.
Honestly, the thing is fascinating. If it is to be believed, in December of 1911, the ladies of the church got together and decided they should do some kind of fundraiser: ". . .an eager search/For ways and means from day today,/To meet the bills. . ."
There were likely no furniture barons in Sherman Street, no rich folks, so the Ladies decided on some kind of handkerchief shower: "Please give us a nice handkerchief," it beckons. Not one of those red farmer things, I suppose, but "a nice one," mind you, and don't question purpose either because, as some aspiring poet from the pew says ". . .every one who has a nose,/Will guess what handkerchiefs are for." So there.
Some things get lost in time. How on earth the ancient ladies of Sherman Street planned to make money on a hundred hankies is not at all clear; but if I know church fund-raisers, once they collected the goods, they simply pedaled 'em back to the congregation. You know how that goes. Some things don't change in a hundred years.
The poem is just dorky enough to be cool. It doesn't slobber religious sentiment and feels more like a joke than a tract. I like that. I think it bespeaks a church very much at home with itself. This whole handkerchief caper, even back then, was probably mostly goofy. Some of the old farts probably thought it silly, even a shade irreverent. I like that too.
I took it home from my office with a passel of other miscellaneous museum pieces, just part of the accumulation of a lifetime in just one place. If you don't move, I've discovered, neither does all kinds of stuff.
Sometimes people say it's a wonderful thing for someone like me to have stayed at one desk most all of my life. Today, demographers claim most people will change professions six times--professions, not just locations. Me? I've been here forever. Look at the stuff the years have washed up--some odd little memento courtesy of the ladies of 1911 at Sherman Street church.
I can't just chuck it, so here's what I'm thinking. Maybe the church itself would like it. Sure--I think I'll send it off, USPS. Why not? Methinks, the ancient Ladies of Sherman Street deserve some respect for their poetic goofiness. Besides, someone will smile.
And that's worth the stamp.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:21 AM