Place, Hope, and What We Put in It

Place, Hope, and What We Put in It

My momma always told me if you put something in it, you’ll get something out of it,” the late, great Douglas Oliver, Pitmaster at Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que, Holly Hill, SC


One of the hallmarks of a well-loved place is that there are no strangers. Knowing begins with welcome and often extends to celebration.

A co-worker told me about hiking on a mountain in Alaska last year. He was wearing his Sax Gen hoodie (made locally at TS Designs). There, on the top of the mountain, he ran into a couple who explained that they’d been to Saxapahaw! One went to Duke and the other to UNC (and, still, they were together!), and while at school, they had visited Saxapahaw.

Lynne Pierce, one of our beloved regular customers and director of S.A.F.E. (Southern Alamance Family Empowerment), came in exclaiming about her happy-birthday-to-me present. She told us about her new car, parked outside, and the great service and deal she had gotten from the County Ford car dealership. She said the salesman (Nathan Spoon) saw her Saxapahaw shirt, and he said he was happy to help. He asked her if she would tell her friends about them. She was happy to, and has since also posted her public thank you on social media. Her “surprise” pajama birthday party at the store followed. The place was full of well-wishers and the experience was really heart-warming.

Think of all “place” can mean: to place in a contest; to put something in its place with intention; a sense of place; an actual, geographical landmark; place settings… . Just as every person is named, every place is named, once it is claimed. Claiming can be as simple as repeating visits, signing a name, or posting images from a tagged satellite spot. Claiming is different than possessing or owning, though there are related shades of meaning and relationship.

When we are happy to be in the moment, to share time and place, when we know the value of our experience, we claim it. We own it as a cherished moment, a memory, not fixed but enduring, ever open to celebrating. Ours is a small world with infinite horizons.

SGS ‘s co-owner, Chef Jeff Barney, shared an online link recently about “The Third Place,” and what this third place is and means to us in our culture. A third place is one that is not home, and not work (though I say, those of us working in third places may be happy to claim it too) ; a comfortable place to meet friends, to hang out, to enjoy the atmosphere, the company, the time of life. Every place has its variation. The link introduced sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s (1989, 1991) book: Celebrating The Third Place: Inspiring Stories about the ‘Great Good Places’ at the Heart of our Communities; those places in our country where “everybody knows your name.” Oldenburg’s essays are stories from proprietors and patrons of  places ranging from diners to gift shops, to expresso bars, to the great gym, and how they came to be. We in Saxapahaw appreciate these stories—the “live local” reality seeks growth and thrives as we feed it, as it survived long before the birth of hashtags.

Laughter, music, conversation over community tables where good, local food and drink can be had nurtures the hope in us. Knowing many of the farmers that grow and raise our food, as well as knowing the local chefs, butcher and brewers, adds to our satisfaction. We are constantly fed by many whose names we may never know. Troubles abound in our treads of daily life, but there surely is a lot to celebrate as we choose hope and positive change that begins with the little things.

After this season of snow, rain, and sun, and the Supermoon punctuating the crystal-clear sky like a golden-red-dipped ping-pong ball, hope in its many natural human expressions may be 2019’s hallmark. We welcome it.