|Sage Grass & Cedars|
|Smiling Faces, Pretty Places|
by Darrell Thompson
Sometimes genuinely well intentioned people in a position of authority can say or write something that obligates the rest of us to a code of conduct, ethics or ideals that are not our own. I describe these people as “genuinely” well intentioned because we often tend to think of well intentioned people as meddlers, busybodies and do-gooders who try to force their opinions of what they think is good on the rest of us. Such is not always the case.
Sometimes people find themselves in a position where it is their job to promote their organization, business, church or even state in the most positive light. One way to do that is to come up with a slogan that can, with just a few words, convey the ideals of their group in a favorable and intriguing way. The problem arises because all members of that group are not cut out with the same cookie cutter and don’t conform to the catchy slogan that is supposed to encompass and define them.
Bev and I recently vacationed in South Carolina. One of the first things that we noticed as we drove through South Carolina was the car tags. The slogan on the tag was “Smiling Faces, Pretty Places.” We immediately came to the conclusion that this was going to be a great vacation; not just because of the spectacular sights that we anticipated but also a state full of friendly smiling faces who welcomed us to their state as their guest.
The person who came up with that slogan really went out on a limb. He or she had obligated a whole state to live up to a high standard born in the mind of one individual.
One of the first chances that we had to encounter the smiling faces of the South Carolinians was along the Atlantic coast at a place called Cape Romain. We were really looking for light houses and this sounded like a good place to have one. What we found was a vast coastal marshland that was home to the world’s largest nesting area for loggerhead turtles according to the biologist that we talked to.
The biologist was waiting to take some of the local teachers on a boat tour of these marshlands and had confused us with being in that party. As we walked down the long pier back to the parking lot we encountered some of the teachers making their way to the boat in groups of two and three. We spoke a courteous greeting to the first few groups but did not receive an acknowledgement of any kind. We made our greeting to the next few groups more obvious but the best that we got was a nod that acknowledged our presence. Bev and I simultaneously looked at each other and thought “so this is the state of smiling faces?”
Some states choose to play it safe. Illinois, for example has “Land of Lincoln” on their tags. That is safe and noncommittal. It is a statement of fact that cannot be challenged by another state and un-obligatory to its citizens. Alabama tag is similar. The slogan “Stars Fell on Alabama” is a reference to a past historical event and does not bind us Alabamians to a code of conduct to be scrutinized by our visitors from other states or countries.
However, if you have done just a little traveling around our state, you have surely noticed signs that read “Let’s Keep Alabama the Beautiful.” The person who thought that up did not think of it while driving down the road toward where I live in the late evening when the sun is setting low and reflecting off the cans and bottles that have been thrown in the ditch.
It’s been said that men think of the world as their urinal, an ashtray to smokers, and to some the world is obviously a garbage can. It can be tough living up to a slogan. Incidentally, we did find many smiling faces and pretty places in South Carolina.
Perhaps the teachers at Cape Romain had good reason to be gloomy. I don’t claim to know their circumstance. They were there after hours on their own time without extra pay and probably thinking of other pressing things that needed to be done. That, as well as other circumstances, tend to get a lot of us down in the mouth, not just teachers.
That brings up a phrase I picked up in a little country church we stopped at in Haysville, North Carolina. “We can’t all be roses but we can bloom where we are.” In that case, dandelions must be like it is said of blondes, they sure have more fun.
Darrell Thompson is the Moulton store manager of Lawrence County Exchange.