Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Salt of the Earth

I’ve been thinking about it and can recall people in almost every town where I’ve lived that are what you would describe as “salt of the earth” folk. These were often not the people whose name would be found in lights. They certainly wouldn’t have their pictures in the paper for some misdeed. They were what one might call “the ordinaries.” They didn’t live their lives to be noticed and didn’t get hot under the collar if they were slighted in some way.

In Seaside, California, I think of a couple named Buck and Cora. I’m not sure what brought them to the Monterey Peninsula from somewhere in the deep South (Alabama, I think it was), but they lived on California’s Central Coast for many years. As a couple, Buck and Cora were about as different from each other as the hard wood of a maple tree is different from the sweet sap that flows out of it.


Buck’s salty persona was right at home in the Monterey of the mid-seventies. He was a man of few words. In fact, I can vaguely remember anything he said. Buck was one of those guys who faithfully attended church services and church functions, but rarely spoke. What I do remember about him was the way he showed up every Saturday to mow the lawns and trim the bushes. That church property always looked beautiful on Sundays, largely because Buck just did his job. What made it his job? I don’t know. I just know that he faithfully did it for years. If a mower broke, he would quietly fix it. If he saw a problem with the landscape, he would just take care of it. Looking back, I realize that Buck was the kind of man you might want as a neighbor. He would have been one of the first ones to offer a hand when you needed it. He wouldn’t want attention, but would simply help take care of business.


Unlike her husband, Cora’s words were like the coo of a dove. Her southern accent was a beautiful, smooth drawl that somehow had never taken on on the flat, crisp tones of the West Coast. It was that friendly voice that endeared Cora to scores of preschool children. You see, Cora would make calls to all her kindergarten class each Saturday. She would ask to speak with the child, then say, “I wanted to tell you about Sunday School tomorrow. Will you be there?” Our oldest, Sean, was still tiny when we moved away from Seaside, so we never got to watch Cora’s soft persuasion personally. However, I heard numerous parents tell stories about their youngsters in Cora’s class. Those days were long before cell phones and text messages. The telephone was a tool rather than a toy. Unlike today, children weren’t handed a phone to play games and entertain themselves. Instead, they could actually get in trouble for playing with the phone. But on Saturday mornings, their phone would ring and Cora would ask for them by name. They felt so big to have their own phone call to answer. Eyes would light up and they would have a real conversation with an adult for a few minutes. They LOVED the year that they were in "Miss Cora’s" class.


Buck and Cora often cross my mind. I came to understand that a church full of folks like them would be a productive, loving place. Though we left that town almost 40 years ago, their faces spring into the eye of my memory and I thank God for their “saltiness.” May God increase their kind.


“You are salt,” Jesus said. It’s a powerfully simple identity statement. Whether you are terse and tough like Buck or talkative and tender like Cora, Jesus designed you to add His flavor to the world around you. I can’t wait to talk about it this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. I hope you can join us. Can’t be there? Catch the podcast!



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