the good people of iowa

the good people of iowa

I’ll admit it. I’m a sentimentalist. I’ve been known to get teary-eyed at the end of a good movie … or sometimes even in the middle!

On the other hand, I’m no fan of reality television in any form, and I’m no fan of contrived and very public demonstrations of charity. (As Jesus put it: When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them …)

So when I sat down the other night with my wife to watch Three Wishes with Amy Grant, I did so with some pretty low expectations and a healthy dose of skepticism. But I liked the show … and there were a few tears.

The format of the show is this: Amy and her crew descend on a town, set up a tent, and invite the townspeople to come and share their wishes. The hour-long show documents the efforts of Amy and company to grant three of these wishes. In this particular show, they rebuilt a dairy barn for a young couple who had lost their barn to a fire; they arranged to have the college loan debt of a young Iowa State graduate cancelled; and they staged a graduation ceremony for a young woman who had been severely disabled in an automobile accident just days before her original high school graduation.

I liked it … not because I was so impressed with the great generosity of Amy and her friends, and not so much because I shared the joy of these three people, these three families, who had the good fortune to get what they wanted. What stayed with me, what impressed me, was the good people of Lemars, Iowa, the town featured in this week’s episode. I was impressed by the deep loyalty and commitment to family, the courage of a young woman who had no family, the sincere affection and readiness to help of folks — young and old alike — for a neighbor in need. I was reminded of what has kept me here in Iowa for eleven years — the people.

The people of Iowa, like people anywhere, are by no means perfect. They have, as people everywhere do, their own particular, even glaring, flaws. But, on the whole, Iowa people do care deeply about family. They come through for each other in crunch time. And they aren’t shy about expressing affection.

Why? Because they have remained close to the land? Because of the necessary interdependence of an agricultural economy? Because of deeply ingrained ethnic and cultural traditions? Maybe for all these reasons. But I would like to think that at the root of the character of many a good Iowan is a genuine and most practical faith in God. It’s there and it shows …

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