The voice heard from an old photograph

Published 7:29 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sitting on top of my desk is a photograph needing a frame.  Sixteen family members pose stoically without smiles, dressed in finery in front of the farmhouse built by their patriarch, Andrew Jackson Walker Sr.

The year was 1885. My great, great grandfather and grandmother are in the center and to their right is my great-grandfather. The rest of the brood are my aunts and uncles.

Yes, A.J. and his wife, Clementine, raised nine daughters and five sons.

My, how times have changed in 133 years! Enormous changes in dress, education, transportation, communication, government, morals and faith took place.

Our lives today compared to A. J.’s life experiences are vastly different; more complicated, and many would say “improved.” 

Fashion has improved because I do believe I would be very uncomfortable wearing a black dress while tending a garden in the Tennessee summer sun.

I am not sure I would do well without my jeans, T-shirt and flip-flops.

Transportation has undoubtedly advanced with the invention of cars, trains and planes to carry us from place to place.

I love horses but going to California in a covered wagon is not my idea of a fun family vacation.

Education has improved to the point that all citizens can have one if they so choose.

Going to school was a luxury in the 1800s, and now, most of us take it for granted.

Communication today has made it possible to stay in touch with those we love. I think the Walker Clan would have enjoyed that.

They were never known as a quiet bunch. However, I am not sure any of them would like texting over talking and using an emoji instead of hearing the raw emotion.

Since 1885, our country not only grew but grew away from some of the principals that A. J. held dear.

He would be aghast at the way our leaders have misled our country at times. The thought of anyone not being a patriot would mortify him.

The lack of courage by many leaders to do the “right” thing would be foreign to someone like A.J. Walker.   

However, America has improved race relations and equality for its citizens. We have a long way to go, but we will continue to heal if we don’t lose compassion, sensibility and sensitivity.

I contemplate a conversation with my late great, great grandfather and can visualize us rocking on the front porch as the cool mountain air sharpens our senses.

“Lynn, it is good to heal racial tensions and create more equality, but you got a problem,” Granddaddy A. J. would say to me.

“Well, we got lots of problems, and much of it stems from hatred,” I respond.

“Honey, the reason folks got hate, is ‘cause they ain’t been taught no love through the Lord.  And, that right there is your problem.”

“Now ain’t that the truth!” I shout.

Andrew Jackson Walker would put God somewhere in every structure in America. I doubt he would worry about who it might offend.

He would be more concerned about offending God.  Yes, faith has changed. And, no, it has not improved.   

Many people have lost touch with God, and thus, we are becoming a less Godly nation. If parents are not teaching a child spirituality, then where is the child to turn when they need the comfort a mere human cannot offer?

How long has it been since we have seen a revival tent?

Where is  another like Billy Graham? Churches spend many dollars to send missionaries to other countries. 

American believers need a mission to teach those that have no idea what knowing God can and will do. 

We all know our morals have not improved. How could they if our spirituality has not?

We have taken God out of the limelight so much that it is hard for many to see the light.

“Honey, God teaches obedience. God gave me the strength to care for these 14 children I raised. I taught them early that the only way they would have a good life is to follow the Good Lord and raise their youngun’s in the faith. I taught ‘um to be thankful and to always be respectful.  You got to show ‘um how by using discipline. How you think I got them to get all gussied up to take that picture!” A.J. preached with a laugh.

People say life was simpler back in 1885. I’ll bet Andrew Jackson Walker would differ with you.

Daily living was much harder then, and perhaps, making them approach a day with greater appreciation.

The 16 knew each night to thank God for their hot dresses and boots, their one-room schoolhouse, their horse and buggy, their freedom America offers, their earth that yields food, and for the love of their family who gathers on a porch in the Tennessee hills.