It’s a soft, rainy day here.

My co-teacher is leading Sunday School today. This is only the second time she has done so. We had originally planned to alternate weeks, but she is out of the country a great deal, working for the One Book Foundation. And when she is in the U.S., she is often visiting other churches and telling them about the work of the foundation, or visiting her far-flung family members, so with one thing and another I have nearly always been the one leading the lesson.

My co-teacher is a sprightly and well-groomed lady of about 70. She was married for 40 years and then, a couple of years ago, was divorced. I can’t imagine what, if you were able to live with a person for 40 years, would cause you then to divorce them, but of course I can hardly ask. After the divorce, she took up her current globe-trotting life, and enjoys it immensely.

Her specialization is power point presentations of suffering.

She shows photos of people who are hungry, ill-housed, lacking medical care, desperate for the opportunity to learn to read, and struggling to keep clean and clothed. Then she speaks of how the spirit of God is with them, how generous and welcoming they are, and what steps the One Book Foundation is taking to provide potable water or a school building, or food or medicines, or books.

She is very successful at raising funds.

But I have already seen several of her presentations. I give to the One Book Foundation already. I am having rather more excitement in my life than usual right now, and would welcome a peaceful day. I woke up with a temptation to skip Sunday School.

Do you ever do this? I don’t mean do you skip Sunday School. I mean, do you ever shield yourself from unpleasant realities? Change the channel when the news comes on because you feel that you can’t do anything about it? Stop people from talking about global warming because you don’t intend to do anything about it?

I once did a lecture on the negative stereotypes about the region where I live. I quickly saw that two of the three common stereotypes had obvious historical roots. But the third stereotype, the idea that the people here were lazy, just made no sense at all.

The most cursory examination of the local history showed that people here, including small children, had to work incredibly hard to eke out the most meager living. Where could people have gotten the idea that they were lazy?

As I continued studying, I found that the idea had arisen along with the tourist industry in the early part of the 20th century. At that time, much of our region continued in quite desperate poverty at a time when the visitors from other parts of the nation were experiencing a great economic boom. The rest of the country was not dealing with malaria, hookworm, a shortage of doctors, and schooling only for the most fortunate.

hillbilly carving How could they tootle around in their new automobiles, enjoying the picturesque poverty of the natives, unless they figured out some way for that poverty to be their own fault? Thus arose the image of the lazy hillbilly choosing to live in a run-down cabin with no plumbing so that he could spend his time snoozing and drinking. If you are hillbilly_calendar_small unfamiliar with this stereotype, you can see it even now on old cartoons on TV.

It was, I think, a way for people to protect themselves from having to suffer over the plight of people who had scarcely recovered from the Civil War before being hit with a series of depressions and disasters that continued until after WWII.

Just so, I would like to stay in my cozy house on this gray day until it is time to go sing, rather than being faced with suffering. I’m not in the mood for suffering today.

However, I Am The Slave of Duty. I will go. Maybe she will just present the lesson in the curriculum guide.

I am going to tidy before I leave, in hopes of coming home to a reasonably tidy house. And I will arrange something nice for lunch and plan a pleasant and relaxing afternoon not spent thinking about any of the more exciting aspects of my life right now. Maybe a long walk  if the rain stops, a bit of sewing and knitting, a nice cup of tea….

Enjoy your Sunday!