God, family, neighbors, country, land, and honorable work. That’s the order of it. Fiercely independent and humble servants. We as partakers in the rural lifestyle think our urban cousins have this order out-of-whack. We stereotype them, just like they do the overall wearing, barefoot hillbillys that many of them see us as. We see a bunch of prissy, uptight urbanites that could not shoot a rifle or swing a hammer to save their lives. (I doubt either of these stereotypes are fair assessments, but they illustrate my point) When Hank Jr. sings, “we can skin a buck and run a trotline” we know its because “Country folks can survive.” We are proud of our heritage and our chosen lifestyle. We can survive without Republicans and Democrats, without Uncle Freddie and Sister Sallie Mae. Bernanke is not a name that most of us will recognize without some explanation. It’s OK that Brother Bill talks slower than even most of us, cause he can work rings round 3 good men. An afternoon on the porch visiting with an elderly neighbor that can’t get out anymore is not a half-day wasted. It’s a golden time to give back, and learn from the wiser at the same time.
We don’t believe you are going to find the things you need to live your life on the evening news. We know those things are in the Bible. Everything takes a backseat to how God directs us to live our lives. Nothing is more important. Nothing. Not health care, not taxes, not global warming, not our paycheck. We know God is there when everything else fails to live up to it’s promises.
Our family are people that we want to see, and want to come over during the holidays. They are those that we can count on when times are tough. The ones that help with sick children and sacrifice their own time to help you in times of need. Our neighbors are family too, so I probably should have grouped them together to start with. In the rural South, it’s still customary to give a little wave or gesture as you meet people…even while driving. You might know them, and Heaven forbid you not speak to somebody you know! Those are the same neighbors that will help you with that flat tire when it’s 37 degrees and raining. The same ones that will sit with you on the porch one day when you are old and feeble.
Country. Many would list this right after God, but those that hold to true Southern Living Values will not. There is still a strong independent mindset among rural Southerners. The same kind of mindset that led General Lee to fight on the behalf of his beloved Virginia, instead of the Union. He had the opportunity to have the great power of the Union Army under his direction. He chose his beliefs and neighbors over country. It was not without angst that he made this choice, as struggling to reconcile highly held, and seemingly conflicting values can be. However, few can argue the honor of this iconic and AMERICAN figure. I would argue that we love America just as much as any other person. There are simply those things that we value even more. We hold that America is worth fighting and dying for. At the end of the War of Northern Aggression, General Lee chose reconciliation to his neighbors and country over the human desire of grudge and retaliation.
Our land rises up high on the list. It’s what God has given us to take care of and preserve for future generations. Rural folks are conservationists at heart. We understand that there is a balance between using the land for our betterment and our enjoyment and completely changing the face of what was created. Land is our connection to peace and harmony. It sustains us. We use it to sustain or urban cousins too. They are part of our country. They can’t grow enough food and trees to satisfy their own needs. So they rely on us to use our land to do that for them. We want to be able to continue to do this, despite all of their insistence that they know better how to use our land than we do. We have been feeding and taking care of you for hundreds of years, and we are a tenacious lot. We’ll keep doing it in spite of the roadblocks you throw out there. Sure there are those that take advantage of land. Just like there are those that take advantage of your financial investments. Do we legislate them into oblivion or reach out a hand to a neighbor that wants to conserve, produce, and protect the land that sustains us all?
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Truer words may never have been spoken. That’s why we honor those who are willing to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. OK, so I have used three cliche statements in a row. Southerners are good at that. Jesus taught in parables. Sometimes that time on the porch can be one parable after the other. The person we are sitting on the porch reminiscing with has spent a lifetime in hard, and honorable work. We honor that work as a means of honoring our neighbor.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:37-40
Rural Southern Living Values, in a nutshell.