The 3 R’s for a Southerner

RMlogo The 3 R's for a Southerner
From 1980 to ’85, I worked at a machine shop called TransAmerica Delaval. It was a job. For lunch, we would gather around a table in the back of our department. It was a good time to relax, eat and chat.

Our conversation nearly always revolved around the 3 R’s: Rac’in, Rassl’in, and Religion. (Translated: NASCAR Racing, Professional Wrestling, and Southern Religion.) During this season I was not a Christian, though most of my workmates were good ole Southern Baptist boys.

On one particular fall day (1984), the conversation turned to religion during our lunch break. I don’t remember much about it, except the part when my friends asked what I thought about the Bible. An interesting question for somebody who had never read the Bible.

I remember our grandfather (Papa Glenn) offering us five “Thomas boys” $100 if we read the entire Bible. I started reading my First Baptist Church Sunday school Bible. I read a few pages the best I remember and then shut her down. It was the King James Version, and I was a cussing ten-year-old. Elizabethan English wasn’t working well for a foul-mouth country boy.

So here we are again, about 15 years later and somebody is asking my opinion about the Bible. To the best of my remembrance, I said something like,

I think the Bible is a good book to pattern your life after, but I don’t believe everything in it is true. In fact, you cannot convince me that California is real because I have never been there. I think some of the stories in the Bible are far-fetched and I don’t believe them.

That covered my expert opinion. What I knew about the Bible came from my Sunday school and Vacation Bible School experiences where I learned about Noah and his Ark, Daniel in a den of lions, Jonah and the whale, and the three Hebrew boys in a fire.

I did watch the 10 Commandments with Charlton Heston. It was so good. And I loved hearing Billy Graham. The man was easy to understand and seemed kind, which was a departure from all the men in my life. Religion was a farce to me, plus all the religious folks that I knew were fake.

Now, rassl’in, on the other hand, was something that was real, full of intrigue, and an ongoing narrative. Plus you had good versus evil. Ask me about rassl’in. I’m an expert about that.

It’s ironic how rassl’in became fake and religion became real. (Don’t tell a southerner rassl’in ain’t real.)

This Is How You Say “Howdy” In California

We were sitting in Coffee Underground, downtown Greenville, South Carolina. Tristen was about six-years-old. Sarah was our host; she also attended our church. We love Sarah.

While we were chatting up our church friend, Tristen was thinking about the remake of the old Beverly Hillbillies show. (They made a movie in the mid-90s to bless those who were not familiar with the show from the sixties.)

At one point during the movie, the part where the hillbilly Clampett family had piled all their rustic belongings on their jelopy automobile and were entering Beverly Hills, California, there were a lot of open-border Californians upset about what they were seeing.

Rednecks. Old car. And a pile of junk. It was the worst version of the Antique Roadshow.

In a traditional and welcoming style, the Californians were “flipping off” the Clampetts. (Giving them the bird.) Perplexed, Granny (I think) asked what their sign language meant. And Jethro, the smart one in the bunch because he finished the eighth grade said,

Well, that’s how you say howdy in California.

It was an innocuous line, and since Tristen was not familiar with that kind of sign language, we let it pass when we were watching the movie.

Back To Coffee Underground

So, we’re sitting at the Coffee Underground, and Miss Sarah is serving us. As we’re pondering what we want to drink, we made small talk. Tristen, always wanting to add her two-cents, said,

Hey, Miss Sarah, this is how you say hello in California.

As my lovely daughter was saying these words, she had both her arms fully extended toward Miss Sarah. She wrapped all her little fingers in a tight fist, except her two middle fingers, which were sticking straight up so Miss Sarah would not miss this unique way of saying, “Howdy.”

Miss Sarah’s eyes widened. She leaned slightly backward in her stance, and her mouth opened, but no words came out. It was a moment frozen in time.

We ordered coffee.

Miss Sarah moved to New York City.

Tristen learned another way to say, “Hello.”

Ansa Is Struggling With Not Serving Enough

Two nights ago as Lucia was tucking in my 12-year old to bed, they had a conversation that Ansa initiated. She was struggling with Haydn doing most of the serving around the house, according to her perspective.

She believed that Haydn was serving too much and that he would not let her serve. Let’s just say that Ansa’s angst is one of those struggles every parent wants their children to have.

Two Acceptable Conflicts

I wrote an article a while back about two acceptable and unresolvable conflicts in your home. One of those “acceptable conflicts” is who is the biggest sinner in our home.

Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he was the foremost sinner. Then he died, which left a vacancy in the “chief sinner seat.” And as we follow the advice of the Lord by acknowledging the “log in my eye,” it’s apparent that the biggest sinner is me.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5

Of course, the way that works out in our home is five people are vying for the chief sinner seat, which is a pleasant problem because if you’re more aware of the log in your eye rather than the other family member’s speck, you minimize familial conflict.

The other “acceptable conflict” is that no one is permitted to “out-serve” another, which is why Ansa has a troubled soul; her brother, from her perspective, is “out-serving” her.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

I chatted with her about this yesterday, and then we had a family discussion during dinner. My initial thought was that many kids struggle with who got the most ice cream, or played outside more, or got more device time. It is rare for a child to be struggling because her sibling is out-serving her.

Different Strokes

As we talked, two things came to light. One is that Ansa does often serve, though she serves differently than her brother. Haydn is bigger and stronger, and he does different things that Ansa cannot do, e.g., carrying our Panera bread bins to and from the car or mowing the lawn.

But Ansa has been doing the laundry for over a year now! She took it upon herself, without our suggesting it, to do all the laundry while Lucia was going through cancer surgery. Even after Lucia had recovered, Ansa never stopped doing the laundry.

The second thing we discussed is that it would be good to broaden our definition of serving. Not only does Ansa serve differently but she serves in ways that only she can do.

For example, Ansa brings a unique kind of joy to our home. She is a happy child who talks all the time. I can’t imagine life without her joy-filled words. Her happiness does a daddy good. Haydn is a quiet child.

Every night and each morning Ansa comes to me with a hug and four of the most amazing words a dad could ever hear: “I love you, Daddy.” On the rare day that we don’t see each other at the start of our morning, it’s not the same. Ansa is my pep-pill.

She also serves by cooking, confessing her sins, respecting her parents, and making me the best presents for my birthdays and Christmases. The way she serves is a long list, though it’s a different list from Haydn.

My big takeaway from this discussion is that I need to acknowledge more how she serves. I’m so glad she shared her struggle. She served us well by being honest and transparent with her family. She’s helping me to be a better dad.