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Sean of the South: It’s okay, it’s all okay

Today I read an article my friend sent to me. The article was something that went viral on social media. When I finished reading it, I felt so bad that I had to take some Pepto-Bismol and lie down.

It was depressing. The writer complained about nearly everything. Politics, religion, pollution, crime, taxes, pesticides, SUV’s, pop stars, the price of gas.

And worse, thousands of people agreed that this world is a terrible place.

Well, who am I to say that it isn’t? Nobody, that’s who. Even so, all that reading left me asking myself an important question:

What about chocolate?

Can this world be all that bad as long as we have milk chocolate? Have you ever had a Hershey’s bar when it’s room temperature? It’s a little soft, and it tastes sweeter than a Gaither Homecoming DVD.
It’s hard not to believe that everything is going to be okay while you’re eating chocolate.

And how about pimento cheese? Has the writer ever tried homemade pimento cheese? If he hasn’t, he ought to. Today, my wife just made a fresh batch. I took one bite and I started shaking my leg like Elvis at a revival.

What about daylilies? Or peonies? Or tulips? The colors of summer are almost overwhelming. A pink peony is reason enough to believe life is good.

And there are also the mystical things of life. Things so beautiful that they are hard to name because they are too vast, too immense, and too wistful. Namely, I am speaking of beer.

Have you ever tasted a Budweiser after spending an afternoon mowing your lawn? Mowing the lawn in the heat is brutal and will make even the strongest person weak. But suddenly, here comes your wife with a beer that’s cold enough to crack your teeth. She hands you a beer and you say “Thank you, sweetie. Thank you for mowing our lawn.”

How about all-night-singings at church? I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, I don’t even know if people still do them.

Young folks might not know what I’m talking about. But long before Sunday-morning rock bands, there used to be all-night-singing in the country.

We didn’t really sing all night long, of course. But we sang until maybe ten or eleven thirty. We’d sing the old songs. Like: “Down by the Riverside,” and “In the Sweet By and By,” and all fifty verses to “Rock of Ages.”

And has the writer of the article ever watched an old man dance with his granddaughter at a wedding reception? I’m guessing not.

Last week, I went to a friend’s reception at a seafood restaurant. I saw an old man take the dancefloor with a nine-year-old girl whose hair was in ribbons. The song was “You are so Beautiful.” Niagara Falls.
And what about the Gulf of Mexico? Isn’t the article even going even mention that?

I am a product of the Gulf Coast. There is something magical within our water. Something so incredible that it transcends space and time. You think I’m exaggerating?

Here’s something a foreign language professor once told me:

Hundreds of years ago, when Choctaw Indians still lived on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, they had a word in their language. It was a short word.

It was a great word, a happy word, sort of a utility word that you could use in all kinds of scenarios. The word was “okeh.”

Missionaries loved the word right off the bat. After they learned to speak the native language, they started using “okeh” all the time. They even started using it in place of “amen.”

Thus, while missionaries were busy teaching the Choctaw natives not drink, cuss, or touch Cosmopolitan magazines, “okeh” crept into the English language.

Missionaries started writing this word in their journals, their Bibles, and writing it in postcards sent home. And since there was no official spelling for this new word, they abbreviated it:

“O.K.”
Over time, the word became a big hit. Today, it still is. It is the most used word in the world. It is used in one hundred and ninety-five countries, and almost six thousand languages.

Six thousand.

And just think, it all started here in the South Eastern Conference. Maybe even within eyeshot of the Gulf of Mexico.

Who knows, maybe the native guy who invented the word sat where my childhood backyard was located. Or maybe he sat on the beach. Maybe he looked at the Gulf of Mexico and was reminded of all the wonderful things in life. Things like wildflowers, children’s laughter, clouds, pasta, saturated fat, and the ”Cha Cha Slide.”

Sunrises. Trees. Babies. Old men dancing at wedding receptions with granddaughters. And love.
Perhaps this Choctaw native thought about these things and declared to himself that this world was not so bad after all.

Maybe he decided that no matter what kind of hell breaks loose, no matter what newspapers say, no matter what viral articles claim, everything—and I mean everything—is going to be “okeh.”

Maybe what we all need is just a little more chocolate.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored seven books.

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