Trips to my mom’s hometown were multi-faceted. The first step was enduring a ten-hour ride in the car with stops for gasoline and restrooms. Then, there was the pursuit of familiar tunes as radio station options diminished mile by mile. There was also the change in scenery as deciduous trees were replaced by conifers and grasslands were exchanged for rocky areas and red clay.
Her hometown is relatively flat compared to the Greater Cincinnati area. Stop signs and flashing lights, low riding cars and pickup trucks, and the scent of magnolia in the air. We were “home.” It is mom’s home, her birthplace, the place where strangers are viewed curiously, and everyone knows who you visit and your kin.
In each kitchen or on a living room end table is a police scanner. These instruments were magical to a ten-year-old me. Every few minutes their silence is broken by brief blurbs. Calls into the stations, addresses, and areas of town announced.
From house to house the information is shared. Scanners provide the foundation for quick and lengthy gatherings. They bring the town together. Conversations sometimes start with “We heard Bill…” “Sounds like there was a time…” “I told you Mally would…”
The beat. Steaming days and nights. A world unto itself. A place, a point where heaven and earth comingle. A thin place.
I wonder if others have experienced these thin places. I wonder if spiritual people listen to God and God meets their needs, and they listen to God and God meets their needs? Does the disembodied voice of God help their communities feel interconnected? Does the disembodied voice of God give them conversation starters? (Share your thin places on my blog at https://bit.ly/2WUfKWV)
Leaving my mom’s hometown was always a race. Making good time was key as the car traveled north, traffic increased, and familiar songs blared over the road noise. When we were back in Greater Cincinnati, we were reunited with a town without scanners and conversations. We were reacquainted with a hilly, unscented area. The disembodied, crackle of voices was not in our kitchens and living rooms. The hustle of city life would take an adjustment. Yet, my mom’s hometown continues in my spirit and is alive in my memory. When I quiet myself, I am transported back to the thin place. The place where I listen to God, and God meets my needs, and I listen to God, and God meets my needs.
Quinton Jefferson, Adjunct Assistant Instructor of Theology at Thomas More University, is a member of Christ Church Cathedral.