If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you’re no doubt aware that I’m a fan of country music. That’s probably thanks to my dad, who watched Grand Ole Opry on WSM TV, broadcast from Nashville, Tennessee, every Saturday night of my West Kentucky childhood. Begun in 1925, that show was one of the few occurrences that could lure my father home from country doctoring. Adept at seven or more musical instruments and blessed with a natural, clear tenor voice, he appreciated the talent of those master country musicians and singers.

    In the duke ‘em out between old country and new, some of both move me up. What I like about this genre are the songs that speak from the heart. And a lot do. In my book these are a salve for the soul in troubled times, which pretty well pegs this particular election year. (Sorry to bring that up. It just slipped out.) My current fave is a tune called “Mamaw’s House, sung by Thomas Rhett and featuring Morgan Wallen. My first hearing of this song made me smile and add a fist pump.

    Here’s why.

    The first reason is purely personal. I never knew any of my grandparents and always envied friends who’d spend a couple weeks every summer with “Gamma and Pap” or gather around a Thanksgiving table where every morsel was homemade in “Mamaw’s kitchen.

    The main reason, however, is that I agree with the song’s theme, which conjectures that if more folks had a good grandma to plant memories of pure, unconditional love, this world would be a better place. And I’ll add that wise woman could be related by blood, pseudo, or stand-in.Love that comes complete with grandkids doing their share of work around Mamaw’s house, accepting responsibility when they mess up, being treated consistently like cared-for humans, and spending time with a down-to-earth example of an honest, hardworking, fun-loving elder. Or in case there’s a grandpa, elders.

    How could that not change at least a few folks’ viewpoints, lifestyles, and ways they interact with others for the better? Couldn’t that crank out a few people who grasp the concept of kindness? How many grandmas whose motto is “Spare the rod; spoil the child” have raised someone else’s grandchildren to become star athletes, widely heralded musicians, movie stars, or otherwise responsible citizens who give back to their communities? Those stories always warm my heart. The small-format monthly periodical, Guideposts, is the only magazine that appears in my mailbox on a regular basis that I read from cover-to-cover. Cofounded by Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, and his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, in 1945, this nondenominational treasure became the most popular inspirational magazine ever and frequently features stories of grandmothers’ influences on their families.

    Granted, not everyone can have a Mamaw like Rhett and Wallen have captured in song, one that used words like “tarnation” and “I reckon, baked biscuits, fried chicken, smelled like Marlboro Reds, and had a faded blue ‘82 Lincoln, a backyard garden, porch swing, screen door, and nightstands with a Bible, and in whose house “cussin’ and complainin’” were verboten. The song paints quite a visual. Rhett, Wallen, and their fellow writers take their listeners right on back in time to a seemingly kinder era.

    But it’s the last two lines of the chorus that grab me: “…maybe this crazy world would straighten up and slow on down if every town had a Mamaw’s house.” That’s because I agree with their concept. The Pollyanna in me wonders why it often seems to be hard for folks these days to step back and just be nice to their fellow man, woman, or child. Seems to me it has to do with taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions. Like the school official a few years back who confronted a would-be shooter that came into her office before entering anyclassrooms and talked him down into surrendering his weapon to her by using kindness toward him.

    I like to think that wasn’t an isolated incident. But these days, especially in this election year, it’s sometimes hard to tell. It’s as if a segment of American society has been given permission to misbehave, i.e. to get loud and proud in inappropriate places and at inappropriate times, to use force when a simple request might get the job done, or to adapt a “my way or the highway” frame of mind and refuse to even listen to or allow individual thought and/or action other than their own.

    Mamaw would be appalled.

    Here’s the thing. Not many people have actually been raised by wolves, so that excuse is out. Excluding those with mental and/or emotional challenges no matter the source, an individual’s behavior in most situations is a choice. Following the crowd can be easy. Following one’s own path, staying true to one’s individual instincts and ideals, not so much. But the freedom to make that choice is one principle our nation and its democracy were founded upon. I don’t understand the concept of embracing our country’s flag while ignoring the truths it has stood for since America was born.

    In a recent interview on National Public Radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge, musical artist and actor Lonnie Rashid Lynn – better known by his stage name, Common offered a few thoughts that I believe might help folks to deal with and overcome the vein of sadness that exists in many of us, thus providing a firmer foundation for creating a country, perhaps even a world, that can support thinking and actions that are based more on embracing diversity, individual freedoms, and good ol’ down-to-earth altruism.

    As you read the following, keep in mind that Common has won three Grammys, one Academy Award, one prime time Emmy, and a Golden Globe. The man is a creative genius.

“You have to have a dream… something to look forward to.”
“Hope is having faith, even during hard times.”
“Have a spiritual base you believe in.”
“You have to express (your concept of) God in your life. Operate on that God level and on love. When we operate on a God level, we can’t be taken down.”

    These touchstones seem to work well for this admirable man. Mamaw’s life “rules” beautifully stated. Food for thought for us all.