The Code of the West

by Terry Bartlow.

“What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” Proverbs 19:22

 When Daniel Hackett heard Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry speak the “Code of the West” then saw them model it in the movie Tall Tale, he bore witness to an extremely valuable and fundamental lesson in becoming a man. Not just any man, but a man who is able to influence those around him and to bring honor to his relationship with God. The “Code of the West” gave reason for and defined the character of the men who were speaking it and those who gave their allegiance to it.

Many men throughout history have demonstrated the power of living by these codes, these directives that guide our hearts and actions. Somehow, in some way we know and have learned the value of being generous, caring for the poor and of considering the weak. These three opportunities and directives to fulfill are in no short supply in our world. They are all around us and they need to be recognized and responded to by you and I. The world has always needed men to accept their role, men willing to fight the battle first in becoming intentional warriors for God and then living as one.

One difficulty I faced in the past was in recognizing these three areas and feeling how I could best address them. About fifteen years ago a Psalm came to my attention and has guided my morning prayer and daily intention since.

“In the morning Oh’ Lord I order my prayer to you and eagerly watch all day long.” Ps. 5:3 opens my day’s journey into seeing moments where I am being called to practice generosity to care for the poor and to consider the weak. Recognizing these three openings into another person’s life has served as an incredible threshold for my own personal development. For a long time I relegated these three phrases as a guide and motivation for financial giving and service and while I believe that is valid, I would also submit to you that it is so much more.

Being generous can mean generosity with your time, your affection, your service and use of your talents. Sometimes I will invite one of my students to come in for hot chocolate before school just to chat and to connect. On one more than one occasion their response has been, “I will bring some hot chocolate to pay you back. Thank you.” My typical response is, “Oh’ by no means. This is my treat.” The reward is always mine when I see manifest such grateful hearts.

Caring for the poor certainly means to help financially, however, the poor “in spirit” seem to be in greater abundance than the financially poor. I daily meet a student, colleague, friend or family member who is spiritually and or emotionally bankrupt and in great need. What do I do? Listen intently and hear. That often leads to some action but not always. I’ve come to know I can’t fix every situation but I can walk along and perhaps in a small way lift some of the burden.

Considering the weak requires some discretionary judgment and insight and is often recognized through our listening. Just this morning I was visiting with a gentleman whom I have viewed since I‘ve known him as very competent, capable and sure of himself. He has been a police officer in New York, directed a funeral home for several years, restores cars as a hobby and has an incredible ability to encourage and empower others. When he shared with me the statement that he is “afraid of failing” I was astounded. Never would I have imagined. We are surrounded by people held back by all sorts of fears and doubt.

Men who are leading the charge of God and modeling life for their sons are expected to listen, see and step into moments they are given. Like Daniel Hackett, we must be men prepared and willing to fulfill our roles with others that our sons may see.  While I will not spoil the movie [“Tall Tale”- Nick Stahl (1995)] for you – the “Code of the West” is really summed up in the call to treat others kindly, show respect to them and do what you can to lift a burden.

Consider sitting for an evening to watch the movie with your son(s) and discuss the merits it has to offer.

Blessings on your journey!

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Terry Barlow is a fifth-grade teacher in Loveland Colorado. He has been a
youth pastor, attracts the greatest and most interesting people where ever
he goes, hikes fourteeners in the Rockies, and built his own wood-strip
canoe from scratch. Read more about him and his current mission at
www.lifechangeleadership.com