We are living in heaven

By Rick Watson Guest Columnist

March 3, 2014

The mention of the word heaven brings up images in everyone’s head. When you ask people to describe what heaven looks like, most of those images would be quite different.

Some rely on the descriptions in the Good Book with its pearly gates and streets of gold, but others hold a more modernistic view.

I’m not here to debate it one way or the other, but to describe a conversation that I had with a good friend many years ago.

My old friend Joel Robinson, who died a while back, looked around his Sunday school class of middle-aged people one Sunday and proclaimed that we’re living in heaven. He was a country lawyer by trade, and knew when to pause for effect.

We all looked at each other, a little confused. The thoughts flooding into my mind were, “I didn’t realize there were house payments, and dental appointments in heaven.”

After a short time, most of my classmates must have been thinking along the same lines, because a course of murmurs swept through the class.

Joel was a gifted speaker and teacher, but some folks in the class thought he might have drifted too far from the shore on this one.

After looking each of us in the eye, he said, “Let me explain.”

We all sat back and let him make his case.

For the next half hour Joel spoke in a tone and rhythm that made me think of Atticus Finch, the country attorney played by Gregory Peck in the movie based on Harper Lee’s classic book To Kill A Mockingbird.

Joel would have been in his late 80s now, and he survived the Great Depression with his family. He was young, but not too young to remember the hardships and desperation his family and friends in his community endured during one of the darkest times in America’s history.

Jobs were almost nonexistent, and keeping food on the table was a challenge.

Many of the homes in rural areas of the country were little more than cabins with no insulation and were heated by wood or coal-burning fireplaces. Air conditioning was unheard of.

The cooking was often done on a wood stove in the kitchen. Even in the blazing heat of summer, families required a fire in the cook stove for meals.

After dusk, the only light came from homemade candles or lanterns.

They raised hogs, chickens, goats, and cows for food sources, and everyone had a garden.

Abundant harvests meant that there was enough food to go around, and when crops failed, many went hungry.

The class became swept up in the story as Joel painted with words what seemed like a tapestry representing life for many Americans during those years.

“So you see, if my mama and daddy were living today, they’d think they were in heaven. To flip a switch to turn on lights, or press a few buttons and have a hot stove to bake bread, or to turn on a faucet and have an abundance of fresh water, would have been like heaven to them. That’s not to mention being able to step into a warm room in their house and bathe, or use the bathroom without going outside on frosty mornings.”

The room fell silent for a long time as we contemplated his words. I’m not sure about the others, but that day as I seated myself in the comfortable seat of my car and cranked the engine for the 20-minute drive home, I realized that in some ways, we are indeed living in heaven.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on You can contact him via email: