Okay, I'll admit it--I wasn't exactly thrilled. I'd spoken before at the Hostess Supper, attended what seemed an interminable series of them when our kids were in school, and never much liked meatloaf and scalloped potatoes anyway; but when the hostess called and asked if I'd like to go to the Hostess Supper and if I had something for a speech, I really couldn't say no. How can you turn your face from pure righteousness? Good night, I'm a Calvinist.
A hostess supper is one of those odd events where you end up paying, time and time again, smiling all the while. First, you spend real cash for the food stuffs, then dole out valuable time baking the potatoes or layering sour cream over the salad; then you write out a check for even more--a cash donation--when the powers-that-be pass the stinking hat. A hostess dinner isn't a frilly little apron, it's Bonnie and Clyde in Christian service--they got you comin' and goin'. It's a genuine home-cooked meal trucked in by way of quilted casserole dishes, an event that proffers hospitality and community. Okay. Some people may like them, most maybe not. But I'll tell you this: here in Calvinist country, everybody goes.
I'm amazed sometime at the weary longevity of hostess suppers because I'm not sure anyone looks forward to them. They're borne out of an Ozzie and Harriet era, when the little ladies stayed home and slaved over wood stoves. Today, if a family has any chance to make it, both mom and dad have to work; so today, there's Subway and the Hy-Vee deli, for pity sake. How many people eat a hot dish anymore anyway?--save at the hostess supper.
They exist because they generate bucks, plenty of 'em. And, they're perpetuated too for another reason: because we've always had them. They are (drum roll) tradition. That's right, "Tradition"--sing it, like Tevye. Hammer it the way he does in Fiddler--"TRADITION." No one dies at a hostess supper--this isn't "The Lottery," after all, and Siouxlanders aren't Neanderthals. But whether we like them or not, too many folks around here would grimace if someone would--gasp!--suggest actually putting an end to hostess suppers. Sacrilege.
So I went and spoke, we lived through it, and the food was just fine.
Today's election offers a choice between two different candidates touting different approaches to the way we live. A vote for Romney is a vote for freedom, for business, the glory of unshackled free enterprise. A vote for Obama is a vote for justice, for government, for the compassion we offer to those in need. Both have estimable strengths, both have troubling weaknesses; but it seems clear to me that this year, unlike some others in the recent past, differences truly exist between the two men and the values that infuse their candidacies.
Here's what I'm thinking this morning. Whatever happens today in voting booths all over the country, whoever wins, and whatever direction the country takes, it's somehow reassuring to know that next year at just about this time, late fall, someone will call our place and ask us, once again, if we're interested in attending the annual Hostess Supper.
While I'm on the phone, I'll roll my eyes at my wife. We may say no. But the fact is, you can count on cheesy potatoes and tasty ham balls as rich and sweet as the ones we had last night. Figure on it. No matter who wins today, there's a certain triumphant joy in owning up to the fact that next year, once again, as we have for decades, we'll gather in the gym and eat some kind of meat loaf.
Seriously, this morning, I'm thankful for hostess suppers. Seriously.