VIEW VIDEO  My brother Glenn and his wife Laurie have retired and are traveling the world seeing the sights, last year Europe, this year the Wild West. Now they’re at a dude ranch in Wyoming, getting along with the little dogies, or whatever it is one does at a dude ranch. My brother bought a new hat for the trip, a cowboy hat. He texted all his siblings, all four of us, a picture of himself wearing his new cowboy hat, which he quickly realized was a mistake, since we spent the next hour making fun of him. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know us. Seriously, Marshall Dillon, a cowboy hat?

After Wyoming, we’ll travel together to southern Illinois to revisit the little town where Joseph Gulley moved from Tennessee after the Civil War. He fought for the Union, to the great displeasure of his neighbors, who after the war invited him to relocate further north, which he did, settling in Valier, Illinois. Our last family trip to Valier was in 1976, so there is much to see and much to remember. We’ll begin by thanking our grandfather for moving to Vincennes in 1935, and my father for leaving Vincennes in 1957 and moving to Danville, the spiritual home of Gulley’s everywhere, the Promised Land. When my father moved to Danville in 1957, he was warned against it by my grandfather, who believed its proximity to Indianapolis made it unsafe for habitation.

We’ve been thinking about the first maps in our lives, be they people or paper, and the effect they have on us, for good or ill. When I looked at a map of Wyoming this past week to see where my brother was staying, I noticed lots of green areas on the map, denoting forests, and wide open spaces between very small towns. Have you noticed the growing animosity and mistrust between those who live in the wide-open green spaces and those who live in the cities, between rural and urban? Yet another dividing line in our nation.

It’s probably accurate to say most of the people who live in the wide open spaces think cities aren’t safe. Senator Tommy Tuberville recently decried the danger of big cities, though his state of Alabama has the most dangerous city in America, Mobile. It’s also probably accurate to say that many of the people who live in the cities dismiss their rural counterparts as ignorant and backwards. That too, simply isn’t true, but the myth persists.

Thirty-some odd years ago, I was summoned to the yearly meeting office by Bob Garris, our yearly meeting superintendent, who said he had a new church he wanted me to pastor. I was pastoring Bethel Friends Meeting, just around the corner from Lynn and Don Adams, who hadn’t yet seen fit to attend.

I told Bob Garris, “I’ll go anywhere except the city. They kill one another there. You’re not getting me up there.”

He said, “Go talk to them before you make a decision.”

I said, “I’ll talk with them. But I’m not going there.”

So the next month, when I gave my first sermon there, we met afterwards for a pitch-in dinner to meet the new pastor, me, and I found out those city people were some of the most wonderful people I’d ever met, and in all the years we lived there, I never had an occasion to change my mind.

Back in the Apostle Paul’s day, in a letter to the church at Galatia, Paul mentioned the dividing lines of his generation—Jews and Greeks, enslaved and free, male and female. While the subjects of our distaste and distrust have changed, the underlying contempt and mistrust of the other remains. Today, we add to that division the categories of rural and urban. It isn’t enough to be American. You must be the right kind of American, the real American, which we now determine by looking at a map.

Jason Aldean sings about what small towns won’t tolerate and warns us that he has his grandfather’s gun and isn’t afraid to use it. Ironically, he grew up in Macon, Georgia, a city of 150,000 people, with one of the highest per capita crime rates of any city in America, so I don’t know what small town he’s referring to, but I do know the song has been downloaded 200,000 times a day and has reached #2 on the Billboard list. And let’s not forget that Hilary Clinton once referred to the mostly rural supporters of Donald Trump as “deplorables.” This is to say that neither Aldean nor Clinton are providing us with the necessary language to bridge our differences.

While maps can tell us where people are most heavily concentrated, what they cannot describe are the hearts of those people. They can’t tell us about an elderly couple in my Quaker meeting in Indianapolis, who took in a stranger off the street and fed him and clothed him and found him an apartment and were at his bedside when he died of Huntington’s Disease three years later. Maps can never tell you that.

Maps can’t tell you that the first time I visited the Roachdale Hardware Store, two men were sitting on the liar’s bench discussing their favorite Shakespeare sonnets. Maps can never prepare you for that.

Maps won’t mention that Harper Lee, the woman who ignited our consciousness about the pervasive and pernicious infection of racism in her book, To Kill a Mockingbird, lived most of her life in the small southern town of Monroeville, Alabama.  Maps can never tell us the heart of another.

My friend Bill Eddy had both knees replaced this past week. I went to visit him at the hospital and was chatting with his nurse. I asked her if she had grown up around Danville, and she said no, that she’d just moved to Hendricks County from Los Angeles, California. I was all over that, just like Jason Aldean. I blurted out, “That’s a crazy place. I bet you’re relieved to live here now.” Relieved. I actually said that.

She looked at me, this young nurse, who presumably doesn’t have a master’s degree in theology and forty years of pastoral experience, and said, “I am happy to be anywhere. No matter where I have been, I have met the most wonderful people.”

Oh, the things maps can never tell us. Maps can only tell us where people live, but never what people think and feel, whether they love and who, what they dream and long for, all those things that make us human, no matter where we live.