Our Vanishing Heritage
By Ed Crumley
A Youtube video of Jay Leno interviewing people on the street came attached to an email sent to me by a friend. Jay asked them simple questions that anyone with a 4th or 5th grade education should know. Questions like: “Name two of the Founding Fathers. In what country would you find the Panama Canal?”, and “Who was the first man on the moon?” The answers were astonishing: “Founding fathers of what?”; “I have no clue,” and “Louis Armstrong?” The audience got good laughs out of all of the interviews, but a more thoughtful look at those answers should bring sadness or even fear to the hearts of viewers.
My grandmother was born in 1868 at home on her parents’ cotton farm. She was taught in a one-room country schoolhouse. She and her contemporaries: Aunt Mag, Aunt Ethel, and Aunt Lilly traveled over rough dirt roads a hundred miles to college in mule drawn wagons where they each stayed for maybe a year maximum. Yet they were all among the most educated and intelligent people I have ever known. They knew the Scriptures and could quote many passages from memory. They studied William Shakespeare and Robert Browning and were founding members of clubs called “The Shakespeare Followers” and “The Browning Club” They did book reviews. I kept a letter written by Great Aunt Lilly to my mother about a book she bought for me and my little brother many years ago. Her dignified use of the English Language, her expressiveness, and her spot-on grammar washed over me like a soothing balm causing me, for a moment, to believe that with people like that around, all must be right with the world. Only trouble is, they aren’t around anymore.
My grandfather, born in 1859 on a farm a few miles away from my grandmother’s, was also educated in a one-room schoolhouse. He taught school for a while after going to college and then decided to “read the law” in a local lawyer’s office. There were no law schools in those days and that was how one became a lawyer. He later became a widely-respected state district judge and was eventually offered a position by the governor on the Texas Court of Appeals which he turned down due to health concerns. He displayed a keen mind and a caring heart as he mentored many young lawyers, some of whom became judges themselves.
What was it about those people that set them apart from people of today? If I had to choose one word, it would be wisdom. They were all raised hearing wisdom from their parents night and day, wisdom taught by the Word of God. Almost from birth, wisdom was grafted into their souls.
This resulted in life choices they made which produced God’s blessing in their lives and allowed them, in turn, to bless others.
Proverbs is the book of the Bible which focuses most on wisdom. Here are a few passages: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction,” Prov. 1:7; “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you,” Prov. 3:1-2; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will direct your paths”, Prov. 3:5-6; “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor when you embrace her,” Prov. 4:7-8; “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let her go; keep her, for she is your life,” Prov. 4:13.