Don’t Overlook . . .

Don’t Overlook . . . (1,106)

April 4th, 2011

Overbrook, Kansas.

You probably have never been there. It’s a rural community of 971 people—at least according to my road atlas. The slogan for the town is, “Don’t overlook Overbrook.” Exactly. For after all, that is the danger. We dwell in a society where a certain amount of presence, size, development and occupational standards are necessary to warrant the attention of the general community. Overbrook, Kansas does not necessarily fall within the spectrum of those guidelines, so it’s quite possible that someone might overlook it. Someone like me, who, as I drove through nothing to get to nowhere, temporarily assumed that I would meet . . . nobody.

Truthfully, I can be a very childish little brat when I allow myself to open up my toy box instead of my tool chest. But my two days in Overbrook, Kansas, were not empty at all. If I were characterizing my 2011 tour of the United States, I would have to say that it is speckled with visits to many communities overlooked by corporations, politicians and even a religious system which is simultaneously critical of mega-churches, while wishing they were one.

What I found in Overbrook, Kansas, were the lost tribes of the House of America. I also found these tribes in the rural communities of Texas, Florida and all over this great nation. They are the children of promise of this country, who have been lost in a wilderness for about forty years, trying to find their way back to the America they once dreamed of being a part of.

· They are solid.

· They are intelligent, although Madison Avenue treats them as if they’re stupid.

· They are inventive folks whose frustrations have forced them to hide their ingenious ideas in closets of despair.

· They are spiritual, but not very religious, so they don’t necessarily fit into the present theology of things because they require a gospel that tells them to love their neighbor instead of a church that bickers over styles of music and colors of carpet.

I watched at the end of my service last night as hard-working men and women pitched in to help us with our equipment, with tears in their eyes from having encounters with themselves. They acted like it felt good to look in the mirror again without being perplexed by what they saw.

It was typified by a woman who stood at my table, chatting about a journey she had just made to help her parents get situated into an assisted living facility so they could finish out their years in dignity. She had spent three months of her life trying to make sure her parents were happy and content. Her eyes lit up as she told me about her dad, now ninety years of age, who had once been a proud and prosperous pilot for TWA airlines. She related a story of how he once was on a collision course with another airplane, and because he made the right decision to accelerate the engine, he averted a tragedy which would have taken lives. He was a hero. And she knew he was worthy of a space of time to find his dignity in his last years.

You see—that’s courage. That’s class. And many of the people I met in Overbrook exemplify the belief that each and every one of our actions can make a difference—if we let them accumulate instead of giving up when the fruit is not immediately born.

Our politicians could learn a lot by not overlooking Overbrook. They could discover that the best way to motivate a good people is not by making them afraid, feeding off of their apprehensions and trying to draw out their prejudices. The leaders of the religious system in our country could greatly benefit if they didn’t overlook Overbrook, for rather than offering the pabulum of repetitious tradition, they could challenge their congregations to grow to the measure and the stature of Christ. And the corporations should not overlook Overbrook. Because the best way to advertise your American-made products is not to make people hate Mexicans and Chinese, but instead, to challenge an industrious folk to do better.

I’m going to tell my agent to book me into MORE small towns. Because I refuse to overlook Overbrook.

I don’t know if it’s a formula to change the world, but I do think the path to changing the world is really unleashing the passions of those who are lying dormant—therefore giving them a chance to change their minds.

Published in: on April 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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