Ghosts of Mississippi
While it devolves briefly into a rant about the decadence of our parishioners at one point, I ask you focus on the ache and beauty of his memory of his Sunday School teacher Mary, and of his friend Davey.
Owen is a man of learning - apparently mostly self-taught (as all good learning must be), with a wide grasp of things philosophical, theological, and sociological. He provokes and is opinionated, but always worth reading.
Owen lost his job a while back. I think he is going to school again or still looking for work, or both. Keep him and his family in your prayers.
I have never met the man, but I have corresponded with him and read his work. I hope one day he will journey out this way, for he would find friends, drink, food, and fellowship. God willing.
This piece makes me think of my own teachers and relations - Missouri baptists forged in the troubles of the Depression; Kansas farmers become loggers become steelworkers who, like Owen's mentors have that:
"disposition [which might be called] the Mississippi of the heart. It is that peculiar tenderness that is found among those who have an ache that will not heal in part because the wound has no rest due to the constant motion of being given to others (even if in the quiet, in prayer), but are so glad to be able to give that they count the pain as nothing.
It makes me think of the North Dakota ranchers who came West as an entire family - never rich but in love for one another and generosity which seemed to spring forth from unknown resources, my own Grandmother being one who ended her days in a single-wide striving to remember her children from pictures on the wall while the Alzheimer's ravaged her mind, but always ridiculously, but yet in childlike wonderfulness telling us in song that "the more we get together the happier we'll be."
I am reminded of my neighbor in North Carolina who spent her life protecting her 'angel baby' who lay motionless for 21 years before giving up the ghost, who drove up the street a mile where the 'preacher-man' gave his sermons and was brokenhearted when her husband died. She and my other neighbor had been friends for decades, but the color line was still strong and they only spoke to one another outside the houses and went to different baptist churches. But they baked and shared their abundance with one another too and I believe truly loved one another. Hard to figure.
I'm afraid that I am more like Owen:
I know I have never had much in the way of faith, and maybe that's it. In my life, every time I've had a come to Jesus meetin' of any sort, every time I have tried a bit harder to be a Christian, I have found that my general problems in life have increased, and that I start to screw up more than I did when just coasting. Grant you, I have not tried all that often. In part because I came to wonder if laying low wasn't a more careful route to go.
And I wonder how we, my people, came from where they did to the debacle that was the nightly show of my childhood. I will not tell you that tale, no.
But when I look at where I am at in life, and what people may assume about me (look at him, he's never really had to suffer!), and compare that to what really has gone on in life, I am reminded that we do not know the contours of many another's life and we must assume there lurks there untold stories, and untold pains. They all have ghosts haunting them, whether old gnarled-hand Mississippi Sunday School Teachers or Gucci purse carrying urbanites - let us love one another as we would ourselves.