If I have learned one thing about living out here, it is that no man or woman should be judged by appearances alone. Growing up in the city, there was always a standard by which you tended to gauge other people--the appearance of their home, the newness of their car, their occupation – all these seemed to matter in determining who you could safely associate yourself with. It wasn’t necessarily right, but it was just the way that things were done in order to be accepted by society. Today, when I travel back to urban America, whether in the heart of the northern Plains or on the East Coast, I see these standards still being upheld. I am now wiser to this system of social classification and many of these prejudices that I formerly held eat at my soul to see that they still pervade society.
In the west, more specifically the rural west, I have come to know and accept people for their personal qualities, not their social classification. In coming to learn this, I have found that those that would be cast out by a more urban society have the most to offer to our world and our hope for the future. The phrase “The Salt of the Earth” now has meaning for me. It is a phrase dating back to biblical times that in the present day implies a person is unpretentious and honest and that they represent the capacity of the human spirit as we strive for purity and goodness.
In my travels, I have found that people I would classify as the salt of the earth live extremely modest lifestyles far removed from society. Those simply passing through rural areas see only the wooden shack or dilapidated trailer that serves as home for many. They pass these people off as simple, backwards and unable to survive in a modern society. They see the warning signs to the federal government, out-of-state hunters and other would-be threats to their private property rights. But they fail to see the people.
They fail to see that these people would lay down life and limb to help a total stranger who had gotten himself into a bind on the road. And after you have earned their trust, they will discuss openly with you the problems that they face and then tell you that they accept the problem as their own with no blame placed on others. They will invite you inside to offer you a warm meal prepared with kindness from the fruits of their labor. Quite simply, they will leave an impact on your soul that you will never forget. You will find yourself leaving their home wishing that others could experience this kindness and goodness. They are the Salt of the Earth and they will leave you forever touched.
Remember this as you travel the wide-open plains – true goodness and purity of the human spirit is found in the most rural regions of our nation. It is not always openly beautiful on the outside, but it will touch your heart profoundly once you have met it and embraced it. People in this region should not be regarded as the fringes of society; indeed, they are the heart of an ideal society in and of themselves – the society that we should all strive to achieve in order to make this world a kinder and gentler place