When John-Boy’s calming narration closed each episode of “The Waltons,” just before all of the children said goodnight, he explained in a few sentences what we had witnessed in the past hour.
It took a while for all those kids, John, Olivia, Grandma and Grandpa to wish everyone well before they turned in for the night. It was probably a ploy by Elizabeth or Jim-Bob to stay up longer. Whatever the motivation, the ritual signified all was right on Walton’s Mountain.
Oftentimes, as their lives played out in a Depression-ravaged America, certain members of the family dreamed about or dabbled in trying to get away from home and get to where life would surely be more exciting. What really happened, and what John-Boy would explain so well, was the best of all possible worlds was right there in front of them.
I believe that’s true about the state of Oklahoma. If we can push back the forest to see the trees, I think we might find we live in a place where we have the best of all possible worlds.
There is a term I have paid a lot of attention to lately: emotional reciprocity. It’s two words that essentially explain that when we are nice to someone, they will find it easier to respond in like manner.
My theory is that our great state still has a low enough population to perpetuate a positive emotional reciprocity. Larger states may offer more, but not all of it is good. More people. More traffic. More smog. More crime. More parking problems. Just ... more. Of everything.
I believe all of the “more” issues bring stress and frustration. And emotional reciprocity says, “If you are cranky to me, it’s easier for me to be cranky back.”
We live in a state whose young history reflects proud country people with hard-working backgrounds. In places, people still raise a hand off the steering wheel to simply signify neighborliness. I’ve been in some places where you may get a hand gesture as cars pass, but it’s not the same one.
Life is a little slower here, and that’s OK. The problems coming down the highway seem so much faster and more advanced in other places.
I know, I know, we rank low in some areas the national media remind us about from time to time. I think they should create a list of most beautiful sunsets or a list that somehow measures kindness. Maybe one could select states where people still believe in working till the daylight’s gone.
When Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to the song “Oklahoma!” they wanted to capture the excitement of a region of people with the strength, grit, intelligence and genuineness to make an impression on an entire country. They succeeded. And so have we, with thriving industry; creativity and innovation; agricultural and metropolitan areas.
But perhaps the most precious resource we have as a state is our people. Most of us aren’t aristocrats. If you look real close, many of us have a little dirt under our fingernails and dirt roads in our past. A few of us still live on them — and we’re glad, too!
The next time you find yourself on a country road, stop being busy for a second and experience when the wind comes right behind the rain. It’s peaceful. It smells good, too.
It’s a reminder there are places in the world where a person can pull off to the side of the road and breathe. And listen and hear, as well as put yourself in touch with 100 other senses you may have taken for granted.
Many people in other regions don't have those opportunities anymore. They disappeared a long time ago, in the name of progress.
As a state, we have more. It's just a different type of more than others may be used to looking for. I want to be certain, when we look at what’s going on in other states or regions, that we get called back to the serenity of our own surroundings. And remember: We have some things others wish they had.
The culture of OSU offers its students, staff and faculty more of the good parts of life. We invite students to take a tour and consider applying for admission for the fall semester.
About the author: Kyle Wray has been vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing at Oklahoma State University since 2011. He came to OSU as director of University Marketing in 2004.