For the first time in four days, I expect to venture out to the grocery store this afternoon. I’ve been seriously snowed in. Here in the West Elks Range of the Rocky Mountains, we’ve had more snow than any past ten winters and more is on the way tomorrow. When I travel to Denver this time of year, my neighborhood looks something like this from the airplane window.

If not for this latest snowstorm, I’d be halfway across the country in a meeting discussing intercultural awareness and sensitivity. It’s a subject I care deeply about and as a UUA staff member, expend significant energy addressing in my ministry with congregations. Whether it’s about how group decisions are made, music, worship styles, emotional expression and/or conflict transformation, all these examples of culture make a difference in our relationships. What we do with difference makes a difference and everybody has work to do so that we’re increasingly able to responsibly engage cultural differences. Just recently, I’ve had close experience of differences between rural and urban cultures through reality television.

Jeneve photo

Jeneve Rose Mitchell

In my little mountain community, we’ve been experiencing big excitement this winter because Jeneve Rose Mitchell is a top 24 finalist on American Idol. As a matter of fact, this fifteen year-old singer (a.k.a. “rocky mountain hillbilly girl”) and her family are in Hollywood right now. We’re all very proud of her hard work and we’ve made lots of fun together at local fundraising parties (competing is expensive!) and when gathered in front of the TV to watch her compete and cheer her on. Like Jeneve and her family, more than a few families here live “off the grid,” the electric grid, that is. Choosing to be a cowgirl, living a rural life off the grid is a counter-cultural lifestyle and example of difference not often seen on American prime-time television. Assuming their reaction was authentic, certainly not one familiar to American Idol judges who I assume live in the big city.

Take a moment and watch this cross-cultural exchange between rural and urban ways of being in the world.

What cultural differences do you hear and see in Jeneve’s American Idol audition video?