I love big cities. Much of my adult life has been spent in or near big cities. I love the hustle and bustle of city life.
However, the older I get the more I appreciate my small town heritage. The people I grew up with, the people who helped shape me and send me into the world, mean more to me now than at any time in my adult life. I am a country boy at heart.
So, it probably won’t surprise you that one of my earliest musical memories is that of hearing Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in concert. After Roy made a spectacular entrance astride Trigger, the duo put on a show that I can still remember. I especially remember them singing Home on the Range. Until I turned 12 or 13, when my musical tastes began to change, this song was my unofficial theme song.
Many people have a special place in their hearts for Home on the Range. In 1947 it was adopted as the state song of the Sunflower State. The opening stanza usually gets the bulk of the play time. You remember it, don’t you?
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
I’m not sure whether life imitates art or art influences life. I have found that, even though the lyrics of this song were composed almost 150 years ago, it still articulates a prized value amongst westerners, especially the line that reads:
“Where seldom is heard a discouraging word”
Some of the most encouraging people I’ve known are or were country folks, people for whom Home on the Range is much, much more than a hokey song cherished by back-woodsie folks.
Perhaps I’m inclined to think about this song because I once lived in a part of the United States notorious for discourteous casual interactions with others. In many of the cities “back east” exchanging pleasantries is, apparently, nothing more than a waste of time. It seems that many hope their conversations do not require them to venture beyond a harsh exterior. Conversations often are characterized by a decidedly acerbic tone. It is not unusual for these conversations to end abruptly, with some sort of caustic comeback to attempts to be congenial.
Perhaps this is just the Code of the East. I don’t know. I do know it is everywhere. I’m amazed at the number of times this type of behavior prevailed, even amongst Christians. I even heard some attempt to justify this harshness by statements that run something like, “Well, I know I’m sometimes offensive to others. I really don’t mean to be. But, that’s just the way I am, because that’s the way I was raised.”
While I am indulging in a bit of stereotyping here, I found the way many east coasters treat Texans to be astounding. If a Texan were to make a personal observation about almost anything, it would not be very long until someone commented on how boastful or arrogant Texans tend to be. They didn’t say this behind their backs either. Usually, it was a demeaning, caustic, in-your-face comeback. If a Texan were to say, “I don’t mean to be offensive. That’s just the way I was raised,” he would, in the minds of many, simply be giving further evidence of his conceit. But, I digress.
Regardless of the regionalized idiosyncrasies both are far from the desirable conduct called for by Christ.
- Jesus insists that we treat others the way we want to be treated.
- The fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS…
- In Christ we are called to be “Be kind and compassionate to one another…”
- And, so the recitation of biblical references could continue.
Beyond this, we need to keep in mind the fact that we are by nature works in progress. Growth, change, progress, spiritual development, these are all to be the norm for followers of Jesus. We, like the Christians of the first century, are taught “…with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if our recollections of people we have known, no matter the region of the country to which we have roamed would cause us to immediately think of the song that includes the line, “where seldom is heard a discouraging word”?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the people with whom we work and worship took seriously the verse in Hebrews that says, “encourage one another daily”?
Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a chorus of voices speaking words of blessing and grace to us each day?
This is not going to happen if we simply keep coasting through life. None of us should say, “Well, that’s just the way I am, because that’s the way I was raised.” We need to be growing into the likeness of Christ, becoming more-and-more like Him as our journey through life progresses. Interestingly, when we do this, we also grow closer to one another in the process.
May we all be blessed with people in our lives who regularly speak words of encouragement to us.
May we all be blessed with homes, whether on the range or in the city, where seldom is heard a discouraging word.
May we all be the encouragers others in our lives need us to be.
© Bill Williams