Monday, May 15, 2023

Breakfast Clubs and Cocktail Parties: a Small Step Toward Civic Renewal

I keep on hearing writers say that we are in the midst of a "loneliness epidemic". Westerners - Americans especially - have become dangerously atomized and dislodged from society. Our social fabric is tattered. So much so, that it is beginning to look like Akakiy Akakievitch's overcoat in that classic short story by Nikolai Gogol. Our sense of community is threadbare. 

Thankfully, I am starting to see more literature on our decline in community. A problem cannot be solved unless it is first addressed, right? 

I recently wrote a piece about our problem of unbelonging and atomization for National Review a few days ago. You can read that here

And while writing about the problem is a good start, it is, in and of itself, insufficient. We need prescription. We need a course of action. A fundamental question that we should all ask ourselves: how can I become more involved in my local community? 

We can't snap our fingers and hope that Americans undergo a civic renewal with burgeoning voluntary associations and bowling leagues. But what we can do is take action in our own lives. While this may seem inconsequential, it is so important. 

I recently read a fantastic piece by Ben Christenson in Front Porch Republic, a thoughtful communitarian publication. In it, Christenson writes about his experience hosting a cocktail party. Inspired by a new book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings by Nick Gray, Christenson meticulously planned a successful 20-person gathering. He even went so far as to create an event page, where guests RSVPed for the party; send out multiple reminder emails to attendees; write short bios for each guest; and supply everyone with their own name tag. While going to this length may seem gratuitous, this may be exactly what the doctor ordered!

Would hosting a small gathering here and there be too much to ask? And name tags are actually really inexpensive. Here's a set of 160 for just $6! 

If this still seems too daunting, though, why not organize a monthly breakfast club (and no, I'm not referring to the hip-hop radio show)? This could consist of just you and a few friends. Here's a funny little skit about breakfast clubs by Buffalo, NY comic, Joe Pera: 

By leaving the confines of our apartments and socializing with friends at the local diner, we are taking small steps in repairing America's tattered overcoat. 


  1. The problem is over reliance on devices .. Leave them at home or, at least, turn them off every now and them. Enjoy being with people you want to be with.

  2. I wonder if electronic community will supplant physical community...