A little over an hour ago we arrived back home after 8 days at our cabin in Tennessee. It was a wonderful trip, our minds filled to overflowing with memories of wildflowers, wild animals, beautiful rivers, classic cars, dogwood blossoms, scenic back roads, and pancakes. There is so much to see and do there that it will take many trips before we even begin to feel we have seen it all.
But today, it is the realization of some things I didn’t see or hear that gives me cause to reflect. I didn’t see a single Mercedes Benz or BMW, nary a Tesla or a Prius. There were pickup trucks everywhere, and the truck-less typically drove basic sedans. It was as if cars were about function, not about status.
The women didn’t carry designer bags, and if they colored their hair, it seemed it was done at home and not in a fancy salon. I didn’t see designer clothes (it was mostly jeans and t-shirts). I didn’t see a single health club, a single liquor store, or overhear a single argument. I can’t recall hearing anyone use the F-word.
I heard a lot of people say thank you, a good number say “I appreciate it”, and was on the receiving end of a lot of smiles. It was as if instead of trying not to be angry people were instead going out of their way to be nice.
I wonder if the reason for the cultural differences we experienced was something else we saw. We saw churches, lots of churches. Churches in Tennessee are like Chase banks in Southern California. You can’t drive a mile without seeing one. Faith is a big part of Tennessee life. Almost all of the stores and gift shops sell faith-based products, from bibles to inspirational signs to Christian hats and t-shirts. A furniture store we shopped at even hosts a gospel concert every Monday evening. (The recliner section of the store serves as the seating area!)
Tennessee does not have the material wealth of Southern California, but it seems they have some things money can’t buy. Maybe the hillbillies aren’t as backwards as we think.