Last night we camped along the North Fork of the Holston River in Virginia. We “dilly-dallied” around this morning (after the rush and excitement of leaving home yesterday morning). We enjoyed the sound of the river flowing by and even the occasional raindrops making music on the roof. Have you ever seen the mist clouds shrouding the mountains of a morning? It is a glorious sight and always reminds me of the three years I lived in “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!”
The occasional raindrops multiplied as we began our trek down the road—a wet day in Tennessee. When we stopped to re-fuel, a fellow approached me at the pump and wondered if we would let him see the interior of our little RV. We have encountered this many times and have always provided a tour. I think we should receive a commission from the RV manufacturer, but we haven’t kept track over the years of how many RV’s we’ve actually sold! This friendly fellow would have kept me at the pump all day if I hadn’t interrupted him and told him we had to be on our way!
Along the country road leading to the campground this afternoon I stopped at a Produce Stand. Steve, with his long beard and overalls, came down the lane to help me. He raises chickens and sells the eggs, along with watermelons, tomatoes, and peaches at his little stand. Steve was a friendly fellow. He immediately reached out to shake my hand. (His reaching out with open hand reminded me of two of Henri J.M. Nouwen's books: "With Open Hands" and "Reaching Out." I highly recommend these books, especially as a means of healing the present malignant growth of hatred in America and elsewhere). Steve knew immediately from my voice that I wasn’t from his part of the country. He welcomed me graciously anyway, and told me of all the “must-see” sights in the area and wished us a safe journey. I wonder sometimes with Bertrand Russell, “Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?” Friendliness, as Aristotle told us long ago, tends to make our judgments about others quite different from those made when we are hostile, defensive, projecting, or finding fault.
This friendliness was re-affirmed at the campground tonight. The hostess was so gracious and accommodating. She bent over backwards to make our one-night stay a pleasant one. God’s dream for a world of “friendly folk beneath a friendly sky” has been glimpsed, I believe, by these friendly people in Tennessee and by America at its best. Arnold Toynbee said, “America is a large friendly dog in a small room. Every time it wags its tail it knocks over a chair.” It is better to knock over chairs with a wagging tail than to knock over people with our barking snarls.