The Green, Green Grass of Home

The Green Green Grass of Home

I have had an old song on my mind today, one that takes me back to my childhood. I am pretty certain it even outdates me, but, none the less, it has circulated in my brain for a better part of the afternoon.

I remember all too well what it was like being a young person. I remember lying in my bed in the grips of my own personal drama as I reveled in the certainty that no other person my age had ever been treated as unfairly.

And as I was pondering that today I set my mind in motion to follow the steps I longed to take at that time in my life. In my imagining, I walked those paths to the conclusion.

It seems that every path I longed for, every direction I was certain would lead me to the life I dreamt of was, in reality, a dead end.

We are products of our decisions. What we do shapes our destiny. And those fleeting moments of youth were not worth the destiny they would have shaped for me had I been allowed to follow my own desires.

I can recall the times I have told my own children to be sure about what they are doing because their actions are writing their futures. There is an old adage that says “If you play, you pay.”

I could not remember the words to that old song, so I looked them up. I haven’t actually heard it since I was a child. It seems a young man is returning home. There waiting for him is his family, his old sweetheart, the old home place. How wonderful it is for him to be there touching the grass of home once again.

The song ends like this:

Then I awake and look around me
At four gray walls that surround me
And I realize that I was only dreamin’
For there’s a guard and there’s that sad old padre
Arm and arm we’ll walk at daybreak
Again I’ll touch, the green green grass of home

Yes, they’ll all come to see me
In the shade of that old oak tree
As they lay me ‘neath the green green grass…. of home

I can remember being young and being so eager to leave behind what I felt was the prison my parents had built for me. Looking back it is easy to see that was not the case.

There is a poem that I love. It says so plainly what I cannot say here. Let me share it with you.

A Fence or an Ambulance
Joseph Malins (1895)

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge, there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
Those people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”
But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

So to those young people that I love so dearly, my heart is always burdened for you. I know you do not believe it, but I do truly know what you are going through. I can also see the after effects. It is not a prison we mean to build, it is a hedge to protect you. More than anything we know the effects of the fall. We have seen it, and in some cases, survived it.

One of my favorite sayings is “Sin will take you farther than you ever wanted to go.” It will lead you on a path of self-destruction that will forever change you. And in parents love we want to prevent you from finding yourself in the hog pen, feasting with the pigs when we have sweet, clean, green grass right here for you.

Someday, when you’re older and wiser you will awaken to realize that the grass was never greener on the other side, and the grass was never sweeter than that green, green grass of home.

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