Humble beginnings are not necessarily a limitation. Martin Luther was born a peasant in rural German. He became a theological giant. Abe Lincoln started life in a one-room rural cabin in Kentucky and became one of the most influential men in the United States.
Replica of the Lincoln Home
Millions of other farm boys got their first view of life feeding pigs, riding horses, hiding in a fort of hay bales in a barn. Not every person born humbly ends famous, but most mature with the satisfaction that they made a difference for their family and community. Obviously, the same can be said of people born in affluent circumstances. What were the differences between children in a rural setting and those in cities? This is the story of one rural family.
My Childhood Home (1946-1963)
My life began in humble but not poor circumstances. I am thankful for that launching platform. I knew little about discretionary spending and never enjoyed using money foolishly. We never hungered, but seldom ate in a restaurant. We had a quaint house, but no extra bedrooms. We argued over bathroom time once we graduated from the galvanized tub. Hospitals were available. We always had a car and a pickup, even though we could often expect a breakdown. Our clothes were clean though simple. Mom accepted hand me downs with grace and thanks. I got glasses when I needed them and then again when I broke them. We were blessed with excellent teachers and public schools. We could afford the hot lunches. I went to the dentist annually but encouraged to not request Novocain because of the expense. We took family vacations but only to locations within a day’s drive. We lived a very simple life.
I didn’t resent having very little money, but I knew before puberty that I wanted something other than farming or living on a lonely lane in Iowa. I had no idea which path I would take away from the farm; nor did I know where the chosen path would lead. I would never have dreamed that I would live in Costa Rica before age 30 and spend most of my life serving the international community in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the United States.
The Memories of My Childhood Home
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past. Photos are a great memory-prompt, and because we tend to take photos of happy occasions, they weight our memories to the good.” Gretchen Rubin
Memories become more important with each passing day of life–some sweet and romantic, some painful and dramatic. Every soul on earth thrills to recall the best of the past. Remembrances summarize who we are and how we got there. They remind us of the uniqueness of every life. Some are so real that what we experienced in the past reappear in full color and haunting sound when we close our eyes and push the replay button. Mysteriously our brain induces a frown when we remember odors like the musty shower stall in a damp basement. We can recall the tone and intensity of our mother’s words, “That is strike one, don’t ever do it again!” We feel the panic remembering our wet tongue sticking to a flagpole after a dare. Our memory allows us to fly through the air with the greatest of ease only to crash land when gravity overcomes our Superman cape. Every year the memories pile higher and higher.
Our brain begins to develop as early as four weeks after conception. This super-computer has a nearly unlimited hard drive recording and storing what we have seen, heard, and felt. Some argue we repress the most negative aspects of the past and retain the best. Actually, we have a mixture of the good and the bad. Have you wondered where memories are stored? Current research contends that new memories are encoded in the hippocampus of the brain and then eventually transferred to the frontal lobes for long-term storage.
We have no idea what our brain could absorb and retain if we had been exposed to more languages, books, travel, and memory requirements. The more experiences we pack into our life the “bigger” we become. More languages and a larger vocabulary allow us to express ourselves more clearly and extensively with a larger circle of friends. Books are our transport to where we have never been. Travel, near and far, enlarges our worldview and mutual respect for all people.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain
Most rural Iowans didn’t travel extensively in the 50s and 60s. A Sunday afternoon drive defined travel for many farmers. Families worked six days a week without more than a week’s vacation every year. Even families that had the financial resources to travel a few hundred miles to another state could not leave their farm unattended for more than a few days. The one family in our county that traveled outside the USA became overnight travel experts. Car and train travel far exceeded air travel for rural Iowans.