At the little stone church on a dusty country road, cars and trucks park in a row in the evening sun. The people stream into the building, dropping off homemade snacks while the aroma of coffee begins to fill room.
It is obvious that the people are long time friends as they greet one another. Slowly the stage fills with amplifiers, guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and a smiling man settles himself to play the piano. The men pick up their instruments, the audience quietly chatters, and with a downbeat the band begins to play.
This isn’t your ordinary band. The youngest member is in his early twenties, but the oldest is nearing eighty. The music is pure country and gospel – American style. They have hundreds of years of combined talent and ability between them, and it shows. There is no set pattern to the songs they play. In turn the singers, young and old alike, stand to sing songs that have been part of American music for generations. Sad songs, gospel songs filled with hope, and songs that create memories of days gone past. The band catches the downbeat and simply needs to know what key the singer wants to sing. Then they bring the music alive.
White heads nod in time to the music, worn hands clap out the beat, and faces smile in recognition of the talent of the musicians and singers. The younger faces in the crowded room smile and listen intently to the words of each song, knowing they were learning at the feet of masters.
As I sit and listen, I am transported back to the days of my childhood when I would listen to these same songs on the radio. Suddenly, my eyes fill with tears of nostalgia and the yearning for days that are long past.
I can’t help but wonder where the good in the world has gone. In the rush of getting ahead, making progress, and living large, the world has lost touch with the simple joys of life. Singing on the front porch with a guitar and mandolin, sitting around the kitchen table laughing at old stories, walking out into the sunset to enjoy the beauty, all seem to be lost in the hurry of life. Where are all our simple joys? What has happened to our traditions?
For the time being, they are alive and well in the small stone church on a dusty country road in Oklahoma. As the sunsets to the rhythm of country music, the world seems to stand still just to listen, with pure joy, to the melody.