Country living is the best. Well, it was awesome to me, anyways. For a time in my childhood, my Dad pastored a small church in a tiny Arkansas town, population 630.
It wasn’t exactly a metropolis. We had one bank, one gas station, one small grocery store and one restaurant where you could buy anything deep fried. That’s it. Everything else consisted of houses, churches, dirt roads and cows. Lots of cows. Everywhere. Oh, I forgot to mention chicken houses.
Growing up in a small, Mayberry type of town is awesome when you are a little kid. The closest Wal-mart, not to mention the closest anything, was thirty minutes away. Growing up in sleepy town required a kid to have a love of the outdoors and a shocking imagination.
I forgot to mention that even though we had one of some things and none of everything else, we did have two things. Two tv channels. We got PBS and ABC. That wouldn’t have been so bad if we had a way to play movies. When the VCR phenomenon erupted, there were two schools of thought…you could either buy a VHS or a BETA. Daddy spent many hours researching each model and finally arrived at the conclusion that the BETA was the superior machine. The general population didn’t agree with him. Soon BETAs were phased out. Whenever we would go rent a movie, we had two BETA compatible choices: The Apple Dumpling Gang or Flubber. So, we spent most of our time outside.
I still remember the feeling of dusty fingers and knees, the humid breezes, daffodils and the smells of cows and chicken houses. (Well, most of the memories are pleasant anyway.) Daddy had a little, beat-up red Toyota pickup truck. When Daddy needed to go on visitation calls, my bro and I would climb into the flatbed and sing our hearts out up and down those gravel roads. You’ve never really lived until you’ve sung “On the Jericho Road” at the top of your lungs while bouncing around in the back of a truck twenty miles from any sort of civilization.
Fast forward to the present. We are surrounded by convenience and luxury. The days of “enough” have been replaced by “more”. This was never more evident than while teaching my girls the difference between our wants and our needs.
Once upon a time, I sat down with them and to explain this concept. Bethany stopped me with a raised hand.
“I know this already. Our wants are not our needs.”
I smiled. “Okay. So what does God give us that we need?”
“Jesus, shelter, food, water, clothes, and shoes.”
Her little sister piped up. “And a mailbox.”
Bethany frowned. “Why a mailbox?”
Callie shrugged. “For Netflix.”
Netflix. Probably not a need, but I suppose it depends on your perspective.
Or how about the time my oldest insisted she needed a calculator to do her sixth-grade homework. It would be impossible to do one page of work without it.
“Mom, I need a calculator.”
I looked up from grading their writing assignments. “Um, why?”
Bethany rolled her eyes. “To do my math homework.”
A calculator to do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Nice try.
“Uh, call me crazy but shouldn’t you be able to do it without a calculator? I mean, when I was in fifth grade we had to do all that stuff on paper. We didn’t use calculators.”
Bethany snorted. “Well, obviously you couldn’t use calculators back then. They didn’t even have calculators in the 1800s.”
I believe I gave her a less than perfect grade that day.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that usually we can get by on a lot less than what we think we need. Most of our supposed needs are just wants.
Quarantines and social distancing has upended our world in countless ways but I’ve noticed a remarkable new thing being birthed: the simple ways coming back with a roaring vengeance. Time outside. Walks. Family games. Home cooking.
This moment in history has stripped away so many things and has left many of us searching for the basics…food, water, health, family, emotional connection. Jesus. Always Jesus.
And maybe, from time to time, some Netflix.