“…do not say “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”
King Solomon the Wise (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
This town, the city of Overton, looked a certain way to me when I first arrived here… some twenty years hence.
I remember a couple small-time grocery stores that competed with the local Brookshire’s branch, including Creekmur’s which was a throwback to a bygone era of locally-owned and operated establishments. There was a Perry’s department store as well as two Dollar general stores. I remember no fewer than three locally-owned Garages, who were forced to keep their prices reasonable due to the abundance of available competition. I think there were two drugstores as well, but I could be mistaken on that one.
The storefronts along the main drag of aptly-named Commerce Street boasted a Laundromat, a hardware store, an insurance company, two barbershops, a video store that doubled as a pool hall, and one of the best pizza parlors in all of East Texas.
What few of those businesses still remain, they remain but a shadow of their former selves.
Scattered throughout the great vastness of Texas are ghost towns by the hundreds. Even in our own immediate area are such communities as Belleveu, Jamestown, Rocky Mount, Salem, Sexton City, and Turnertown.
In some cases there are still the last vestiges of these once relatively populous municipalities. Whether in the form of post offices, cross-roads gas stations, or simply a blinking red light that forces you to pause for a moment and maybe look around.
More often than not, these places are relegated to the footnotes of local history and lore.
The work camps of “Joinerville” once held a veritable “metropolis” of roustabouts and laborers during the Oil Boom of the 1930s. Not anymore. Those days have long since passed.
Seldom does a town simply close its doors overnight. No, it is a gradual development.
With each season it dwindles and grays into a pale quiet nothingness. The noise of commerce and activity replaced with the song of birds or the winds rustling through trees and tall meadows.
Don’t say it can’t happen here.
I wholly submit that I am still quite young in many ways, and that my time as a viable member of this community is but a recent and transient event in its history.
Would that I could merely sit and listen to older men counsel me in their ways and reveal to me their reasoning. To help me understand why city streets continue to moulder and crumble. To show me the benefit of offering their children fetid water to drink and desolate streets to wander.
Surely, there can be no wisdom to be found in this, for it is the Spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. One’s years might be the span upon which a man becomes wise, but it is not so that a collection of many years can be exchanged for wisdom.
Therefore, let me speak out of the abundance of my own conscience, and let me be thus judged to have spoken wisely or not. Let no showing of my own age in silvering forelock, or even craft with words, deceive any.
I see a community with an answer for every question, and a solution for every problem… if only their hearts could lead them to move upon what their eyes behold. I don’t see a town limited by what it doesn’t have, but is constrained by its own devices. As a prisoner who is also his own jailer, yet foolishly hides his keys from himself.
There are so many that can do so much, yet there remains such a passive tyranny.
Are there challenges and limitations? Is their adversity? Yes, so it goes for almost every worthy enterprise to be found under Heaven.
But there is a Creation mandate for humanity to lay hold of the plow, to cultivate and subdue the earth. Though we are not under any illusions of “returning to the Garden” we do yet have a calling for the days that are ours.
When? Now. Where? Here. This is our time, this is our place.
Let us continue from the beginning.
It can happen here.