Thursday, September 09, 2004

Live Oak

Last weekend, in the midst of Hurricane Frances, I went to Live Oak, Florida (population <7,000), the town I grew up in. In the nearly 20 years since graduating from high school very little had changed. My home church, which I was preaching at on that Sunday, had grown since the times I roamed the halls. Many of the trouble-makers from our church and surrounding area were now deacons and Sunday School leaders. A teenager I worked with while I was in college was now on staff and everyone was much grayer.

It was a sobering event. With some time to kill, I found my grandfather's grave at the local cemetary (it had been at least 20 years since I had seen it. I don't know how I found it). I found the home I grew up, luckily in good shape, though the trees were much larger and road much narrower. I spent time with parents of good friends and even spent the night with a guy I have known since I was 5 or 6. He was perpetually in trouble while in high school but now owns a chain of pharmacies/hospital supply stores and is doing very well financially. He has also become a prominent leader in our church and community.

However, while reminiscing, I realized how many people I went to high school with have either not grown up or have taken elephantine steps in the wrong direction. Guys who have never gotten a job, but are living off a sizable inheritance, wasting money and life. Old friends still smoking pot and chasing girls the same age as we were when we graduated high school. Straight arrows on a third marriage and too many talented individuals wasting away in mobile home parks (nothing wrong with that for many people in Live Oak- I grew up in a mobile home- I just expected something different).

It has been a time for serious reflection and evaluation. How did some of us make it and some of us not? Was it all personal choice? How much was parenting invloved (especially the biblical idea of raising a child in such a way that when they are older they will not depart from it)? How much of it was spiritual and how much was the bad luck of living in a town like Live Oak- with little natural economy and job growth?

I have spent so much of the past few years realizing how far I am from what I desire to be and what was predicted for me when younger. However, seeing my home town, I realize how far most of us are from what we thought we would be. For every Jeff (my successful friend) there are many more Tommys, Steves and Joes. As little as I have thought I have accomplished, I am still moving forward. And, even though I feel like I have never grown up, maybe I have (I may not have bought a home, only own 1 car, not have a job presently, still dress like a college kid and have a trendy haricut... but, I have a great family, I am a dad and I am looking out for my parents).

Strange Days, indeed. Oh yeah, there was a hurricane blowing through the entire time also.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Rick. I realize that because I didn't arrive until high school, Suwannee County's much deeper in your blood than mine, but I still consider the ties strong. And I too wonder why any of us are where we are instead of where we aren't. With that said, I remain thankful for the short period of my life that I WAS in Live Oak. Believe it or not, the more I read about/by Clarence Jordan and Wendell Berry, the more I can see myself going back. - Mike

Anonymous said...

Hey from Rochester, NY.
First, of all, I hope you are all doing okay amidst the hurricanes that are pounding Florida...

Have you seen the movie _Garden State_ ? It's just like you are describing - about coming back home and seeing who has changed, who hasn't...who has "figured things out" or "grown up." It really moved me, I guess because I find myself in that place of finding my way in life and wondering what I have accomplished. Check it out if you have the chance.