Monday, January 27, 2014

We're in heaven ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

The mention of the word heaven brings up images in everyone’s head. When you ask people to describe what heaven looks like, most of those images would be quite different.

Some rely on the descriptions in the Good Book with its pearly gates and streets of gold, but others hold a more modernistic view.

I’m not here to debate it one way or the other, but to describe a conversation that I had with a good friend many years ago.

My old friend Joel Robinson, who died a while back, looked around his Sunday school class of middle-aged people and proclaimed that we’re living in heaven. He was a country lawyer by trade and knew when to pause for effect.

We all looked at each other, a little confused. The thoughts flooding into my mind were, “I didn’t realize there were house payments, and dental appointments in heaven.”

After a short time, most of my classmates must have been thinking along the same lines because a course of murmurs swept through the class. 

Joel was a gifted speaker and teacher, but some folks in the class thought he might have drifted too far from the shore on this one. 

After looking each of us in the eye, he said, “Let me explain.”

We all sat back and let him make his case. 

For the next half hour, Joel spoke in a tone and rhythm that made me think of Atticus Finch, the country attorney played by Gregory Peck in the movie based on Harper Lee’s classic book “To Kill A Mockingbird.” 

Joel would have been in his late 80s now, and he survived the Great Depression with his family. He was young, but not too young to remember the hardships and desperation his family and friends in his community endured during one of the darkest times in America’s history.

Jobs were almost nonexistent, and keeping food on the table was a challenge.

Many of the homes in rural areas of the country were little more than cabins with no insulation and were heated by wood or coal-burning fireplaces. Air conditioning was unheard of.

The cooking was often done on a wood stove in the kitchen. Even in the blazing heat of summer, families required a fire in the cook stove for meals.

After dusk, the only light came from homemade candles or lanterns.

They raised hogs, chickens, goats and cows for food sources, and everyone had a garden.

Abundant harvests meant that there was enough food to go around, and when crops failed, many went hungry.

The class became swept up in the story as Joel painted with words what seemed like a tapestry representing life for many Americans during those years. 

“So you see, if my mama and daddy were living today, they’d think they were in heaven. To flip a switch to turn on lights, or press a few buttons and have a hot stove to bake bread, or to turn on a faucet and have an abundance of fresh water, would have been like heaven to them. That’s not to mention being able to step into a warm room in their house and bathe, or use the bathroom without going outside on frosty mornings.”

The room fell silent for a long time as we contemplated his words. I’m not sure about the others, but that day as I seated myself in the comfortable seat of my car and cranked the engine for the twenty-minute drive home, I realized that in some ways, we are indeed living in heaven.


  1. Anonymous9:29 PM

    We are, indeed!!

  2. Good read, thanks. This one causes pause to think, that is for sure.

  3. Definitely thought provoking Rick... I wouldn't have survived back that... or not with a good attitude... me an outhouse would not mix well... lol

  4. My own parents said the same. There were privvies in the back yard, country or city. Indoor plumbing, brought sweeping health improvement.

  5. My grandparents and parents shared this type of life. At least they had gardens, chickens, and a cow. Indeed, we have such an easy life compared to theirs.

  6. lol you know I know life was hard back then but it was also a better life.
    People worked hard to make a living and everything you did had value
    People also cared about each other more. I agree. We got a great planet to live on. It's beauty is just over whelming and we have the gift of life and understanding to know it and experience this short life we get to live.!00 years is nothing in terms of the scope of things. I just wish we took better care of it though.

    Read my blog today. It might be of interest to Jilda.

  7. Anonymous3:15 PM

    I live in Heaven every day:)That is what I call New Zealand and my little farm here.Every morning that I wake up I thank god for another day of life ,I look out of my window ,see peace of Pacific Ocean,see my horses,cats and other animal peacefully in the garden,here my daughters voice and start a day with fresh brewed cofee,some lovely music and smell of freshly baked bread.It takes little to be happy if you can see what is now as that is never to be repeated.Great post Rick and glad to be back and read you again.Come visit me too .Will have some great recipes from famous fellow kiwi Annabel langbein also in English.Greetings from sunny New Zealnd

    1. Thanks for your kind words Dzoli. I tried to go back to your blog but I don't have permission to get to it. Please send me a link.

  8. It's funny Rick - because a lot of what that generation went through - although very hard - sounded quite heavenly to me - families were much closer -neighbors more helping - life simpler - for all that we have - we've had to fight a rat race to get here!!!

  9. Just being alive is heaven to me.

  10. Reminds of stories my mother used to tell about growing up on a small town Indiana farm in a family of 11 children.


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