I am writing to you this evening from the Shoals of Alabama. Apparently, the area is made up of several smaller communities that are referred to in a single breath as a region. In particular, we are near Florence and Muscle Shoals – an area that I have never heard of before I had to travel here. We happen to be staying at a resort that is really very nice.
As is usually the case when I travel, I went exploring around the property and the community. When I walked into the dining room, I was greeted with guitars lining the walls and a hundred or more photographs memorializing country music stars who have recorded albums in the region. The Osmonds, Tim McGraw, the Rolling Stones, the group Alabama and a host of other superstars – solo artists and groups – are remembered in this area famous for being the recording capitol of the world for many years. In fact, I spent the better part of an hour reading the telegrams and congratulatory letters on the walls. I had no idea the region is so well known.
Baseball greats Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, activist Ralph Abernathy, entertainers Hank Williams and Jim Nabors, boxer Joe Lewis, actresses Tallulah Bankhead and Kate Jackson and many others were born in the state. But frankly, none of these people comes to mind when I think of Alabama.
That’s because whenever I think of this state, I think of my childhood and one of the woodworking mills that my father used to work with. Back then, in the mid sixties, Dad was struggling to build his little wood brokerage business and I was in grammar school. We never went on “real” vacations, primarily because Dad and Mom couldn’t afford them. It’s true that once we went to visit Williamsburg, but it was because Dad had a friend there who ran a business that supplied parts to him. And then there was the trip to San Diego once, but it was because Dad had to go ask for money from a family member so he could continue to work in the company. And then there was the trip to Cullman, AL.
I don’t remember much about that trip other than I had never been to a place like that in my life. It was dusty, with red dirt, kind of like southern Mississippi where my aunt and uncle lived. There really wasn’t anything around to speak of, other than the mill that Dad had to visit. We stayed in a little motel on the side of the road and had to sit in the car when Dad went in to conduct his business. It was HOT.
I thought of that this morning when Janet picked out a cell phone cover for her iPhone. She was about to pick out something with a black design and the store clerk suggested something else – another color. When I asked why, she responded, “This is Alabama and anything black will melt in your car…” Wow… the memories came flooding back. How I remember sitting in the hot car, without air conditioning, waiting for Dad to finish his work in the little building in front of the car.
And while parts of the state are pretty, I just don’t connect with the place. I have family in Mississippi and Georgia, friends in Louisiana and Florida, but no connection to this state – at all. So it really surprised me as to how hospitable everyone is. They are just really kind – in fact, quite different from what I was expecting. In fact, on second thought, I don’t even know what I was expecting. The service is great and the people genuine and authentic.
The verse for tonight is from Matt. 10:12, and recounts the instructions that Jesus gave the disciples as they were out on the road. We are told, “As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.”
My encouragement this evening is that no matter where you travel, we live in a great country. We are blessed to be citizens of the United States. My prayer is that you will be as kind to others as the people here have been to us. And they didn’t need to be – they just were. It left an impact on me. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…