My Two Cents
April 5, 2020, 8:00 AM

I don’t know about you, but what I am missing so much these days is the “Third Place”.

The Third Place is that place out in the world where we are known by some, not by others, but where the environment makes us feel safe. The coffee shop, the beauty salon, the bowling alley, the bar, the bookstore…and all those other places that have been closed up for a month, including the church. Third Places give us an opportunity to be out and about, and also be in a place where at least some people know our name. One of the appeals of the Third Place is that we get to decide how much of ourselves to share. Another is that the expectations don’t go much higher than just showing up.

In addition to being the living, breathing body of Christ, the healthy church has always been a thriving Third Place. At church we get to do things like sing and pray. Sometimes we might shed a tear. Other times we get in a good belly laugh. We might sidle up to someone we often sit next to and ask them if they know anything about kitchen faucets. Or we might notice someone’s sad countenance and breezily ask, “Everything okay?” We are known at church. But we are known on our own terms which provides a balance in our lives.

So, not having the church and all those other Third Places these past weeks has been annoying. Even though we love our homes and we have perhaps rediscovered a depth to our household routines and those who share them, we’ve missed our Third Places.

But, to help us keep our perspective, let’s remember that the Third Place isn’t the only place. During this crisis many people- millions of people in fact- have lost what is traditionally thought of as the Second Place- their jobs.  Through no fault of their own, jobs have vanished and livelihoods have been seriously threatened. What has been a month or two’s inconvenience for so many of us, has been catastrophic for others. The elimination of our Third Places has meant the elimination of their savings accounts. And many of those are within range for us to help.

And, then, what about the first place? Our homes. How many around the world have no home to shelter in? What about people for whom six feet of distance is simply not an option?

We can hope that skilled and dedicated professionals, along with national policies, will be able to stem the tide for everyone who might be in the path of this virus. In the meantime, whenever we start missing our Third Places we can say a prayer, or even write a check, for those with No Place to turn. We do this in honor of the one whose last appearance at a Third Place was on Palm Sunday; the one who called his disciples to leave their Second Place and follow him; and the one who has made his First Place in our hearts.