Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name. Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.
I have seen, in my lifetime, many changes in the roles of men and women within their respective societies. Most changes are good, many more are needed. A male friend of mine, old as the hills just as I am, pontificated about the role of women in the household.
“A woman’s duty is in the house taking care of the husband.”
“Hmmmm,” I replied. “Sounds like old-fashioned chauvinism to me.” He took offense.
Now folks, I am not the most progressive, liberated man on earth, but in my mind that kind of talk went the way of the horse and buggy decades ago. Unfortunately, some members of my gender still adhere to it. Equality for women is a good thing. Equality for everyone is a better thing. Argue with me if you must, but I know I am right.
However, some things from the horse and buggy days by far outshine our society today. I remember, as a young boy, the neighbor’s barn being destroyed by fire. Within weeks that neighbor had a new barn with a new hex sign on its side erected by his community brethren – labor intensive and cost free. In the autumn when butchering of livestock needed to be done, the men of the community traveled from one farm to the next assisting each other until all the community’s members had stocked the larders, smoke houses, and shelves with a bounty of meats. The women also participated by joining their sisters to prepare a dinner table groaning under the weight of meats, vegetables and desserts for the hungry working men. Even the children escaped from school classes to assist whenever possible. Some of our greatest lessons in life were learned during those times of shared communal outreach. They were lessons a class room could never duplicate.
Our community lived as if every person mattered regardless of worldly goods and professional achievement. Each man, woman, and child had a purpose and a unique contribution to the community’s livelihood. None were denigrated because of poverty or social difficulty. When the bounty of the land was brought in during fall harvests, none needed to be concerned if their crops were lacking or their larders were not filled. Neighbors filled whatever the need might have been. It’s was simply the right way to live and we all knew that it was right.
“Harvest Home” at our church was a special Sunday in October when the best of the harvest was presented at the altar for the pastor and his family. In later years, when the pastor was better paid, those offerings were taken to the church-sponsored home for orphans and the destitute. Our community cared about its brothers and sisters just as they were instructed to do in their church upbringing, just as Jesus taught during his ministry on earth. The farmers and teachers and artisans and laborers talked the talk and walked the walk.
Times today seem different, more impersonal. I don’t know my neighbors down the street. I attended a church of my tradition for 2 years and knew some of the congregants by name but none well enough to get together for coffee after the service. Everybody seemed hurried to get home, change clothes and watch the game on cable or head to WalMart to buy a new kitchen gadget. Yes, tithing was important, but that five dollar bill in the plate simply did not hold a candle to the basket of fruit setting at the altar during Harvest Home Sunday. It’s too impersonal. And we don’t build barns anymore.