Have you ever heard the expression “winter doldrums” or “cabin fever?” That bluesy feeling that comes from spending many hours cooped up indoors with too little sunshine or fresh air? Happened to me a couple years back.
I assure you, however, that this was NOT the reason for my first ever visit to a tavern. I wasn't in need of a little toddy, or even looking for adventure.
It all began innocently enough. I grew up in a family of girls; 6 of us altogether. The plan was that the six of us would gather from the various parts of the country we called home, to spend time with our parents in Illinois.
My sister and I made plans to travel to this event together. For some funny reason, it seemed my husband was just a tad skeptical about our travel plans. Or at least when he heard it, his brows shot up to get acquainted with his hairline. Truthfully, there have been times when traveling that I met unplanned and unexpected adventures. (A subject that will remain firmly in the closet) Anyway that was in the far and distant past.
Who can tell of the sweetness of family time? We gathered at the home place, Dad and Mom and us sisters. So much laughter and catching up on each other’s lives…All too soon the time came to get on the road for the 5 hour trip home.
Our route took us some distance through a resort area. It provided several pull-offs and observation areas. We decided to stop for a bit of a stretch and to use the restrooms. No service stations seemed to be around, but we noticed a General Store sign ahead.
It was cold. Bitterly cold. At least to this lady used to more moderate temperatures. But it was January after all. The sky had turned an ominous dark slate gray and temperature hovered around zero. With the forceful wind that is often howling in Illinois, the windchill factor was many times below that. So I parked the car as close as possible to the front, and we blew in through the front door in a rush.
It took several moments for my befuddled brain to process that this was not at all the little country store I had expected. Round tables were positioned in neat and tidy rows. Sitting on those chairs were a bunch of men. As we entered, they had swiveled around, and now every single eye in the entire place was zeroed in on us in open-mouthed unabashed stares.
Confession time. I am a middle aged woman, not the eighth wonder of the world. I am not used to such intense scrutiny and male attention. It was most unnerving. It was about then that I noticed the long rows of alcohol for sale behind the counter.
Even then I couldn’t quite shake the image of what I thought this place was supposed to be - a little country store to serve tourists in the resort area. Must have been a mite slow in the uptake, one might say. Reality hit when I read the sign “No one served under age 18.”
This is the actual sign, and the store where we stopped.
Now days things are different. Alcohol is served and sold almost everywhere. Service stations. Grocery Stores. Walmart. Most restaurants. Back not so many years ago, this was not the case. Alcohol sales then were strictly regulated and licensed. Many individual Counties were “dry” making it illegal to sell alcohol within that county.
There is no way to know what the case was with this little country place. There was no indication at all on the outside that this was a place to buy alcohol, and had nothing to do with a General Store despite their sign. There was even a school bus nestled in among the other vehicles in the parking lot.
What was obvious was the startled reaction we created when we walked in. The very air seemed to crackle with electricity. Hmmm.
This little incident may seem insignificant. But it has had an impact on me. Why were these men so surprised to see Mennonite and Amish ladies like us in this establishment?
I grew up in the Anabaptist culture. I suppose in many ways I may be a bit naïve. I don’t have a lot of exposure to people outside my culture. I am a wife, a mother, a Grandmother, and homemaker. More specifically, a daughter of the Most High God. I deeply enjoy life, my family, the things I do. Perhaps I have given too little thought to the impact we can have on others around us - those that are of another culture.
I think that this incident, more then anything else I have experienced in life brought into sharp focus the importance of how I dress and what it portrays.
I am in no way promoting or saying that the way Amish or Mennonites dress is the only right way. I am saying that for a Christian, what we wear matters. Everything matters. Modesty matters. It speaks of values. Modest clothes that flow out of a sanctified heart and life, have an almost tangible aura of dignity.
A modest heart has the splendor of Godly character. It is not to make us appear “godlier.” It is to show that the living God of Heaven lives in our heart. We are His temple. I am not a man, so I am not quite sure how it works, but somehow a genuine Godly modestly dressed woman commands respect without uttering a word or lifting a finger.
Who would have guessed that a Grandma’s first visit to a tavern would have stirred in her such poignant musings…Since Jesus is Light, our divine calling is to shine. Wherever we are. Whatever our circumstances.