Sunday, January 29, 2017

Just a Chair


This is a chair.


Just a chair.

Its seat is made of straw.

Straw is not a strong material.

The first Little Pig built his house out of piled-up straw. He is presented as an example of recklessness and shortsightedness. For good reason—who would build a house with something so weak?

Each piece of straw in this chair could break with one quick pinch.

But this chair is one-hundred-and-forty-three years old.

So how is it still holding itself together?

The many pieces of straw are thatched, woven together, coming to the center from all different directions. They each had to bend in order to be put together. Each piece must continually do its part to bear the load.

Together the straw can bear the stress of a whole person’s weight.

I wasn’t around one-hundred-and-forty-three years ago, but I would guess that not all the straw came from the same plant. Doesn’t matter. When they’re all bound together, the pieces do more than they ever could alone.

Just a chair.

--

I bought this chair today, in a remarkable stroke of luck, at an estate sale south of Pittsburgh.

Its previous owners purchased it from a little place in London, England...

Image result for st. paul's cathedral london

This chair was delivered to St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1874, where it served as a pew chair with four thousand of its straw-thatched brethren for almost a hundred years. When the chairs needed to be replaced with more modern seating, they were sold as a fundraising effort for the Cathedral.

In the course of those hundred years, this chair was used for the service for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and the funeral service for Winston Churchill in 1965. In less ostentatious times, it was used by thousands of regular people sitting, reading, thinking, praying, talking, and listening. People seeking and finding their purpose.

This chair was nearly destroyed multiple times in the London Blitz during World War II. Most notable among them was September 12, 1940, when a time-delayed bomb landed in St. Paul’s. The bomb was powerful enough to level the Cathedral.

A bomb disposal unit managed to destroy it safely in a remote location. Many hands came together to protect the Cathedral, the heart of the city.

And the Cathedral stayed up.

Image result for st. paul's cathedral london blitz

--

This is a chair.

After one-hundred-and-forty-three years, multiple bombings, and a trip across the Atlantic, this thatched-straw-on-wood probably shouldn’t still be a chair.

But it improbably is.

Many fragile pieces, coming to the center from different directions, with the shared purpose of supporting something greater and more precious.

Just a chair.

And a chair is just a place to sit.

Or a place to read.



Or think.

Or pray.

Or plan.

Or talk.

Or listen.

Or all of the above.

Because straw piled up is weak, but straw woven together is strong enough to resist time, stress, and war.

Woven together, bending towards each other, bearing with each other, we can support something greater and more precious. And that’s not just a purpose.

That’s a just purpose.