Lori McKenna captured the essence of wisdom passed on by parents, grandparents, and guardians in her hit song, “Humble & Kind.” She won a Grammy for best Country Song, “Song of the Year” at 2016 CMA Awards and “Country Song of the Year” at 2016 American Music Awards.
Oh, how I wish more folks actually followed this ancient advice. Particularly those running for political office. But, on the other hand, it is voters who decide whether they believe humble and kind are desirable characteristics for leaders.
It was Tim McGraw’s recording of McKenna’s song that propelled it to the number one spot. And according to a Time Magazine article by Charlotte Alter, this country artist works hard at living up to the advice he sings about. One of his goals, according to his “Person of the Week” interview, is for country music to help unify our country.
McGraw shared what he hopes can happen. “I want what’s best for our country. I want what’s best for most people in our country. I think everybody deserves the right to live their life in the best way that they possibly can and to soar in the best way.”
Perhaps being raised by a single mother helps McGraw put things into a more realistic perspective. McKenna notes that “His audience is a true cross-section of the American electorate.”
Here’s the paradox. Our standard of living and life expectancy steadily increased after the Great Depression thanks, in large part, to a partnership of business, government, and organized labor. Since then, we’ve allowed our leaders to move us toward different ideas.
People are mostly unpredictable. Tim Palmer explains humans are “non-linear.” In other words, outputs are not in direct proportion to inputs. Like forecasting weather, humans are nonlinear systems and difficult to predict. He explains that if we win big in the lottery, we’re ecstatic. However, if we win four times as much, we’re not four times as ecstatic.
We’re non-linear and life is unpredictable. “Life seems to progress smoothly and predictably for much of the time. Indeed, it seems one of our biggest concerns appears to be getting stuck in a rut. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, our world is turned upside down,” notes Palmer.
We often say that hindsight is 20/20. Afterwards, we look back and we see the problems that weren’t so visible when it was happening. David Leonhardt describes in this week’s chapters from our companion book for this series, the clarity we now have regarding systemic racism that continued long after emancipation.
Statistically, African Americans benefited economically from the New Deal policies that Leonhardt describes as democratic capitalism, despite their exclusion from programs intended to improve the lives of working Americans. He writes that “Lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures, as well as police officers, school administrators, business executives, and citizen vigilantes around the country all played a part. Trying to prevent Black Americans from joining the middle class was government policy, sometimes written into law and other times…enforced by government officials.”
The policies and practices put in place after the Great Depression benefited everyone. Even black Americans who were systemically discriminated against. It took courage and an awakening before some of our discriminatory practices were eliminated.
But there’s a lot of work left to do. Despite the advances made in the last century, people of color continue to experience discrimination in the workplace and in the streets. Meanwhile, the blurred focus of our national leaders seems self-serving.
According to Luke, Jesus was asked one day to weigh in on a dispute between two brothers. One brother asked Jesus to tell his sibling to divide the property with him. Avoiding the likely trap set for Him, Jesus moved the subject from property to human relationships.
Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be.
“Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed,” Jesus said, “Because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be.”
I believe that pursuing humble and kind is more reflective of our true life than we realize.
Lori McKenna, Tim McGraw, and others reflect both the hopes and disappointments for a large cross-section of Americans. They write and sing both for fame and in the hope of a better future.
But a better future is ultimately up to you and me. We may not vote on bills that come to the floor in congress, but we can cast a vote for those who represent us. Humble and kind seem like biblical attributes that deserve priority in our decisions.
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Parts of our series was inspired by David Leonhardt. Ours was the Shining Future: The Story of the American Dream. New York: Penguin Random House, 2023.
Charlotte Alter. “Tim McGraw on How Music Can Heal Divisions in America.” © Time Magazine, November 2, 2023. Retrieved from: link.
Tim Palmer. “Why the world feels so unstable right now.” © BBC, 5th February 2023. Retrieved from: link