This evening, as most evenings, my kids and I took our sunset stroll and as we walked along and we exchanged stories about the days events – some good, some silly, some challenging – I looked around at the crimson touched leaves, the golden, ready-for harvest corn, the purpling sky, and I breathed in a sigh of relief that we have such beauty as a part of our every day lives. The angst I sometimes feel, worrying that my kids have not experienced as many art museums, science centers, restaurants, historic sites, and techno tools, was washed away in the glory of simple rural beauty. It dawned on me, as I remembered our day, that we live our lives ordered by the love of beauty: prayers, studies, music, art, domestic duties well done…and our love for each other.
The younger kids and I are currently reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the early afternoon, before we do our piano, oral reading, and Spanish lessons. Laura lived from 1867 to 1957, so she quite literally spanned the century from covered wagons to airplanes. Considering all the amazing changes that she witnessed, you’d think that when given the chance to write, she’d write about all the amazing things she was experiencing in her latter years: telephones, electric lights, cars, two world wars… Yet that is not what she wrote about, and that’s not what she has been remembered for. She wrote about the simple pleasures of her life as a child traveling in a covered wagon with her parents, and about her husband’s life as a farmer boy, and her early married years on a small struggling farm. She wrote most eloquently about her father and mother – about their spirit and their love and commitment to each other.
When I wonder if my kids have missed any source of wisdom because they don’t see the latest movie or watch television, I remember Abraham Lincoln and all the brave, witty, wonderful and enduring things he said and did as a man who grew up in rural settings. I remember all the incredible people who have lived throughout history and I realize that their strength and goodness were not products of their environment, but drawn from a life force inside them (I would call grace) which changed their environments for the better.
One of the greatest deceptions of our culture today may be that we are defined by what is around us. But in truth, we are who we are – in any setting. I know this is the age of the selfie, iPods, and Facebook, but I can’t help but wonder if we are forgetting what made us really interesting in the first place – not so much ourselves – but our love and admiration for others.