One of our favorite restaurants is a place in Mentone, AL called The Wildflower Cafe ( They feature fresh ingredients and a creative gourmet menu. On the evening we visited, we enjoyed the salmon Wellington and a dinner special, the “Greeked” mahi-mahi.

Although the food was good, the overall experience was marred by the brash and loud young man sitting at the table just across from and behind us, at my left. He was with a date and was obviously—and did I mention LOUDLY?—trying to impress her with his knowledge of various subjects, his achievements at work, the people he knew, blah, blah, blah. He had not learned to use his “inside voice,” and his mama and daddy had apparently not taught him courtesy and manners in a public setting. Or it they had, the lesson hadn’t stuck.

But what can we expect in this disconnected day, when people walk around or drive with their cell phones stuck to their ears or are routinely rude and discourteous, whether driving, walking, dining or simply living? Like the woman who at the polling place completely ignored the sign on the door that said “No cell phones allowed.” What happened? She kept her cell on, and when phone rang, she didn’t immediately shut it off. She had to be scolded by the poll worker before she took action!

We are so unaware of our surroundings and the people—our neighbors—who populate them. We don’t pay attention. I think it’s because we have become so thoroughly self-absorbed, intent on getting our own way, asserting our privilege. But such behavior should come as no surprise in a society where selfish and greedy corporate executives make ridiculous salaries and pull down outrageous bonuses, where government officials care not about helping the American people find jobs but rather about getting elected and keeping their own jobs, where we have had drilled into us that the pronoun “I” is more important by an order of magnitude than “we.”

But the fundamental teaching of Jesus still stands. Drawing on the ancient Hebrew tradition, he said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

What would our land be like if we were to connect with God and with each other in such a way?

© 2011 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.