Sunday, September 21, 2014

the art of making soap and building community

Yesterday I learned how to make soap.  
(No, not this soap.  Mine wasn't nearly this fun looking.)
It’s something I’ve wanted to learn for quite a while, so I was thrilled when one of our Dominican brothers, who makes homemade soap, agreed to teach me.  I brought the rosemary and lemon (yum), he brought the lard and lye (yuck), and we had a great afternoon.  I learned that lye and water create an exothermic reaction (i.e.: HOT) and I heard stories about his grandmother, who taught him to make soap.  We discovered that we both break into spontaneous song when something reminds us of the lyrics.  As we worked, other brothers wandered in and out, their curiosity piqued by the concoction bubbling in our crockpot.  We made soap, yes, but we were also building community.

There’s a principle in conflict resolution called “cross-cutting ties.”  Essentially, it’s the idea that one really effective way to build bridges between groups in conflict is to find a common interest or goal and bring people together to share in it.

I’m not suggesting that Dominicans are a group in conflict (though all families have their conflicts) but I do think that creating cross-cutting ties is part of being human.  We do it all the time: we search for common interests when we first meet someone new.  We find a common interest and feel more connected to that person.  Eventually, a friendship may even develop.  And in a society that prizes Structure, Productivity, and Collaboration, it's important to remember often it's the seemingly small things that "tie" us together.  

Collaborating on Big Important Things is good, but sometimes it’s also good just to be together.  Sometimes, you just need to make soap together.  Or play soccer.  Or dance, or cook, or learn to yodel, or gawk at glowing hot air balloons... together.  

Sadly, I didn’t snap a single picture of our soap-making endeavor… I’ll post some later with our finished product. :)


  1. Thank you for your blog entry, Christin. It is very true about building community -- and the Dominican family is an awesome family to be part of. :-)

  2. Christin, you have captured some wonderful truths about community in your lovely image! Thank you!
    Margaret Palliser, OP

  3. Welcome Home, again and again, cherished Christin ! Family lives at home and brings the Word to the world. What better place to be family than in St. Louis where the family lives. There are so many ways to work up a lather...and doing it with your brother is a parable of sorts; an event which is all about relationship. Thank you so much for your wisdom. Ann Willits OP

  4. You're absolutely right on, Christin. And thanks.


  5. Hi Christin,
    Thanks so much for your post. It is a good reminder for all of us.
    Blessings to you, Chuc and Kelly. Oh yes, blessings to Joye and Megan, too.