You Are Who Your Friends Are

It was 1976, the first day of my junior year in high school and my first day at a new school. My mom was dropping me off in front of the school and just as I am about to shut the door my mom hits me with one of her old sayings, “you are who your friends are.”  She was waiting for me to respond but I was now a junior in high school and I was hip to her game. That’s what she wanted me to do. She wanted me to ask what are you talking about so she could give me one of her little mini-lectures. I wasn’t going to bite. I shouted, “love you mom” and headed toward the school.

Unfortunately her words kept floating around in my head all day long. That’s the way all of the best old sayings are they stick in your head whether you want them to or not. This one was a doozy.  Eventually I decided this old saying meant I would have the same reputation as the friends I decide to hang out with, and therefore, at least in the minds of other people I would be the same as the people I hung out with.  Thinking I had it worked out I told my mom and she said I had part of it right and then she explained that not only will you have the same reputation as your friends but in most cases you will make the same choices.

This is of course the kind of old people saying that young people hate. Young people want to believe they can run with any group they want but maintain their separate identity and more importantly make their own decisions.  I didn’t care much for this saying and my mother had other sayings that were also designed it seemed to limit my freedom to associate with other people. Have you ever heard someone say “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.”  Again, according to my mother’s way of thinking this means if there is one bad person in my peer group that could destroy all of us. Man that is harsh stuff and hard for a teenager to accept. My school was teaching tolerance and saying treat everyone the same, don’t be prejudice but my mama was saying “guard your heart.”   That one she drug straight out of the Bible, now that is really getting old school.

This really is one of the more difficult things we have to learn in life.  Freedom of association is after all enshrined in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights and some of these old sayings have been used as a means of maintaining inappropriate class or racial barriers.  On the other hand birds of a feather do in deed flock together.  Deciding who to be friends with is not easy and sometimes we are not in a position to pick our friends.  Sometimes events seem to conspire to place us together with other people.

I think all of these sayings serve to remind us that we are responsible for making positive decisions about our associations. We can be tolerant and open minded but we must also learn to say no and when to get up and leave. Not easy for an adult and perhaps impossible for a teen. The best we can probably hope for is to make our children stop and think about what they are doing and make deliberate and thoughtful decisions about whom they associate and under what circumstances.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

When the roll is called up yonder.

Ten MileThe Ten Mile Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1873. The Church took its name from the Ten Mile Creek that ran through the woods nearby. Today, Ten Mile Missionary Baptist Church thrives in a beautiful modern facility but it is the memory of the old church that haunts my dreams. It was my grandparents church and I attended my first services their when I was a few weeks old. For a kid mostly raised in the city my trips to Ten Mile were always an adventure and the site of some of my first and fondest memories.

In my early days the only air current at Ten Mile Baptist Church on a July Sunday was generated by Mamaw’s oscillating wrist and a popsicle stick fan. The windows were left open and one had to develop a degree of faith just to ignore the constantly marauding red wasp. In the winter time a black wood burning cast iron stove was move to the front of the church and the oldest deacon I have ever seen sat on the from pew just to keep it properly stoked. The only running water came from a hand pump well out in front of the church. That water was cold as ice and somehow it tasted a little better when you had to pump it. Since there was no running water there were no bathrooms inside the church and members had to go to the bathroom in an outhouse. This was not the kind of one-stall outhouse depicted in old movies this was a tin shed built directly over a septic tank with several stalls. It was snaky and filled with wasp. I, like most of the men and boys preferred to use the woods out behind the shed. It was a brave man or woman in a bind that entered the outhouse at Ten Mile Baptist Church, it still scares me just to think about it.

My Papaw was a deacon and one of the leaders in the church. I was always very proud to be his grandson. We sat up close to the front. My Mamaw always had a choice of gum for us kids, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, Spearmint, or Doublemint. I was a Juicy Fruit guy myself but I would chew anything if it came from Mamaw’s big black purse. I really never care for gum that much unless it came from Mamaw’s purse.

I have so many memories of Ten Mile but my fondest memory is of going with my Papaw and Mamaw to “Singing.” They used the word as a noun. We were not going singing we were going to singing. I remember Papaw at the door every Sunday night calling, “come on Mamaw, we are going to miss singing.” Mamaw would holler back just hold your horses. Now, at Ten Mile a singing was where most everyone showed up early for church, one person stood up, picked a hymn, and then led the group in singing that hymn. Then someone else would take a turn. You did not need to have a good voice to go to singing, just a voice, a love for the Lord and a love for the old hymns. The Old Rugged Cross, Rock Of Ages, Sweet Hour Of Prayer, one after another we worked our way through the old Baptist Hymnal until it was time to start the service, then we finished with one final hymn, often it was Amazing Grace.

When I think about my Papaw and Mamaw and Ten Mile Baptist Church I get a lump in my throat. I can almost hear my Papaw singing “Amazing grace, how sweet, the sound that saves a wretch like me…”

I was a witness to the faith of my parents and grandparents and in time I would feel the calling of the Holy Spirit and accept Christ as my savior. I believe with all my heart that by the amazing grace of Jesus Christ that when the role is called up yonder I will see my Papaw and Mamaw again and I will join them at a heavenly singing.