June 22–Listening: The voices of family

Part 1 excerpted from Karen Smith’s homily at the June 19 Service, UUCG

As empty-nesters, my husband and I have fewer voices at our house these days. We compensate by playing the radio a lot at our house.  It plays when my husband is in the barn or the garage, set to oldies stations or to talk radio. I have a rough idea as to where he is depending on which radio is playing.   I play the radio mostly when I am in the kitchen, switching between public radio stations in Atlanta and o Gainesville. When I play the radio in my car, I listen to country western stations (any other fans out there?).  I like Brad Paisley, The Zac Brown Band, some old Dolly Parton and Lady Antebellum.  I like the ballads they sing, those songs that tell a story about people or a place.

One song that was popular a few years back was called ‘I Hear Voices’ by Chris Young.  He tells the story of the various pieces of advice he was given over the years by his parents and grandparents.  Things like:

(his) dad sayin’, “Work that job, But don’t work your life away”

And “if you quit that team you’ll be a quitter for the rest of your life.”

“And granddad sayin’, “You can have a few but don’t ever cross that line”

And “If you meet the one, you better treat (them) right.”

He calls them  “Those hard-to-find words of wisdom holed up here in my mind.”

He counts himself lucky to have had the benefit of their wisdom, although he may not have appreciated it at the time.  We all carry the voices of our past with us, whether or not we listen to them is up to us.

The household of my youth had primarily two voices, those of my parents.  My mother grew up in a small town and she often said:  What will the neighbors think?”  To this day, I feel a twinge of guilt hanging out clothes on the laundry line on a Sunday (”What will the neighbors think?”) which is doubly ridiculous when I realize that no one else can see my clothesline unless they are standing in my backyard. My father was a city kid; his attitude was “Who gives a……flip what the neighbors think?” It sounds much more aggressive than he was.    My dad was the more relaxed parent, the one who played with my brother and me, laughed often, whistled constantly and I would have sad he was a happier person than my mother were it not for the stories he told about his childhood.  Those stories were always sad stories.  I think that my dad listened to the voice of inadequacy, and believed.

Today: whose voices are we listening to?  Are we believing them?  Why?

Karen Smith

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