Many children’s stories opened up with the phrase, “Once upon a time…”. When I was a child, the old timers started many of their stories with, “When I was a boy…”. It was the men in Liberty overalls form of “Once upon a time…” Now, I am probably labeled an old timer by most even though I don’t wear overalls.
When I was a boy times were different. Not everything about when I was a boy was great. When people had heart attacks they usually died or had a poor life expectancy. Cancer was just about a death sentence most of the time. We had people who were maimed from polio. Car engines had to be overhauled at 100,000 miles but could be done by a good ole boy under a shade tree. Schools were segregated and I remember “White Only” signs. Many kids in the first grade had rotten teeth. Not everything was good.
Yet, when I was a boy, many things were wonderful. We did not have a key to our front door. Young children could roam the neighborhoods without the worry of creeps. The flag was saluted not burned. A soldier in uniform made everyone beam with pride. Everyone pulled over and stopped for funeral processions. Children said yes sir and yes ma’am. Not even an avowed sinner dared cut his grass on Sunday.
Somewhere along the way we improved our lot in life in many ways. Houses became air-conditioned and engines lasted longer without an overhaul. We put a man on the moon. Many of us learned to live together and dared to love one another regardless of our skin color. Poor sharecropper’s grandchildren graduated from college (I am one of them).
When I was a boy, I never dreamed we would have our world today. Sometimes, I feel like I am standing on an iceberg that is quickly melting. Politicians are bitterly divided and seeking to divide us into warring tribes. The United States in many ways looks like the Divided States. How did we get here? I’m not sure but unless something changes, it will not end well. Jesus said in Mark 3:25 (NKJV), “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
When I was a boy if something bad happened, we prayed. Prayer was the first thing many did, not when all other options failed but the first thing. In my memory are the loud voices of fathers praying in the woods and mothers praying at kitchen sinks. I can still see the whole congregation gathered in the altar area of our country church and hearing the thunderous voices of prayer reaching to Heaven. Prayer remains our best and first option. God is the only one who can keep our iceberg from melting. Pray people of God!
When I was a boy, things were simple, and I remain simple-minded today. I am okay being a simpleton with a simple principle grounded in God’s Word. It really is the solution to our many problems. The solution is my mantra, “Love God and love your neighbor.”
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV).
If world leaders loved God and loved their people more than they loved money and power, our situation would be like the best of when I was a boy. If fathers and mothers loved God and loved their children more than they loved themselves and “likes” on Facebook, our situation would be like the best of when I was a boy.
When I was a boy, I was taught to love God and love my neighbor. If our iceberg melts under my feet, I plan to live out that principle until my head goes under the water.
When I was a boy, I was told that my only hope was in Jesus. I hold to that sacred hope to these days.
Once upon a time, when I was a boy, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord and gave Him my life. I dedicated my life to live out His principles. I have often failed to live up to His standard, but it is the beacon by which I seek to guide my life. When I was a boy, I decided to follow Jesus and to love my neighbor. What else can I do? I see no other options.
Once upon a time, when I was a boy…
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt
Note: The featured photo is me, when I was a boy, at about three years old. When I am wrapped up in the arms of God, that is what I look like.