Dear Jayber Crow,
I recently finished, at the continual suggestion by my friend Josh, reading the story of your fictional life written by Wendell Berry and narrated by you. It took me over a month to get through it, mainly because I didn't want it to end. I found myself deliberately putting it down after a few pages, just to ration out the enjoyment and enrichment I was getting, so it would last longer. I've told others recently, and I'm telling you now-- If your book didn't transform me in ways yet unseen, then at least the desire is there on my part for it to slowly take root and make me into a new person. A better person.
In the past I have read books about small town life and the power of the mundane as a sort of self justification in this internal war I have fought with the agents of progress all around me. Fearing I would be left behind in a culture that is for the quick of feet and mind, I chose instead to hunker down into my romanticized view of an Andy Griffith type world. I chose the path, at least in theory, of the simpleton. The "Everyman." I suppose my reasoning was that eventually the world would come back around to my way of thinking. I would then be proven the true progressive, one that unlocked the treasures of the past unavailable to the masses and their electronic encumbrances.
It was this mode of thinking that pulled me into your book. Yet as I waded further in, I found you were taking me to new places. Places that didn't allow my thoughts on "community" to be used as the trump card in theological, political, and culture discourse. You made me confront the idea that simply throwing a group of people in close proximity to each other doesn't a utopia make.
Your life exposed two alternately dreadful and hopeful truths: Redemption rarely happens quickly, and is never cheap. And, true community is only available to those who take the long view of things, and who avoid, as much as possible, viewing each other as leverage.
My fear is that because I have chosen a place where people are continually just passing through, that I'll never have the opportunity to experience the longevity of loving a group of people the way you have. Though I suppose we are all a part of places where people are just passing through.
I was moved at your humility. I've spent the better part of two years feeling wronged and diminished by people who I believed didn't appreciate what I had to offer. You spent an entire lifetime in which you were largely ignored, even though you were the repository of the collective memory of an entire community. Through it all you rarely showed any emotion other than an extreme gratitude for having a birds eye view. In the end, it seemed your life was given meaning and inertia by this gratitude that eludes many of us.
Above all, I think you showed me the peace that comes from knowing your place. You spoke of the big nuisances and evils of the world in big, constant terms. The War, The Economy, The News, are never things that come and go, but are inevitabilities that will do what they will do. Through it all you had a keen understanding of your place, which served not to diminish, but to increase your value among those you loved.
Jayber Crow, thanks for your story. I will recommend it to anyone.
(Thanks to Robin for her allowing me to use her computer while I wait for the funds to accumulate to get mine fixed.)