Let me just warn you now. This is not an uplifting post. If you are looking for an energizing way to begin your day, you might want to look elsewhere. Today I am writing about something on my heart and while things that often perch on my heart ARE inspiring and uplifting (remember that I am a survivor of many things) this is not one of those. I am sorry. Check back with me tomorrow.
As I was traveling through the mountains of West Virginia, often en route to or from the slopes to our resort, I was taken aback by the poverty that is so ever-present in this beautiful state. It made me very aware of the platform I stood on.
Trailer homes were the norm. In fact, I believe that a trailer is actually considered a relatively nice home in the West Virgina foothills. Please understand that I say this not in any way to belittle these dear people. It just smacked me in the face a bit as I sometimes can get stuck in my little suburban world though I am making a conscious effort not to do so these days.
I remember watching a documentary entitled “American Hollow” on HBO made by Rory Kennedy. I have always admired Rory’s work because she dares to go where many will not. She’s not afraid to speak the truth and show it like it is. The pretty, yes. But the ugly? She’ll lay it out there for you. Her work is not for those who want to continue to see the world through rose-colored glasses. I thank God for people like her. (Click here to view “American Hollow” in segments)
Her documentary followed an Appalachian family through the dramas of everyday life – it was reality television before reality television existed. And when I say drama, I mean drama. Not the kind of drama that your car-has-a-flat-and-you-can’t-get-your-kids-to-preschool kind of drama. No. This is the kind of drama in which a mom mourns the shooting of her son and squirrels are killed and skinned for dinner that evening.
It was eye-opening. I remember some of the specifics to this day and I viewed it eleven years ago.
Being the lover of children that I am, my initial reaction was to grab those little innocents who are growing up in such poverty, such dysfunction, and run. Just run like the wind and love them to death in my own home and raise them up “right”.
Then I realized that my “right” and their “right” just might not be the same thing. Who the heck am I?
If abuse is endured or alcohol and drugs are ever-present, then removal of children is an absolute necessity. But what about those children who are being raised in filth? Or those that sleep on just a mattress if they are lucky? Those who drink Pepsi in their bottles because that’s all they can afford? Do they lack love? While some absolutely do (those are the ones I want to get my paws on) many do not.
But yet I can’t help but wonder – is love all it takes? How does the cycle ever break? How does it change for the better?
Such questions. Such powerful questions. And yet I don’t even know how to begin to answer them. I. Just. Don’t. Know.
My brother in law was with us on this little ski trip and he brought up a study he had seen somewhere (he could not remember where so if any of you know where this information could be found, please let me know) in which those with a household income of $40,000 a year or less professed a strong faith and belief in Jesus. As the median household income rose, the profession of faith and belief in Jesus decreased.
Put that in your pipe and smoke on it for a bit.
What does this say?
One of the shanties I saw was so dilapidated it looked like it was going to simply just fall down and destruct at any moment. Yet in the front yard was a cross made out of stick. There is stood. Likely the most beautiful cross I had ever seen.
I have heard some arguments that those who live in poverty profess strong faith because this is all they have.
But ironically, this is all I have, too. The other things I have can be taken away in the blink of an eye. But faith? No. It’s the only thing we can ever possess that cannot be taken from us.
I’m reading a fantastically wonderful book right now entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I can’t put it down.
Though it is about World War II and does at times discuss some of the horrid monstrosities that occurred during that time, it’s really a book about the human spirit. The need for love and connection that resides in us all. God made us this way for a reason.
Many of those imprisoned in work camps (Doesn’t that just sound so much tidier than it actually was? I’m not sure I would have named them “work camps” at all.) held true to their beliefs. They knew they were being persecuted, in the worst possible way, for what they believed. Yet on their darkest days, when the power of the Nazi regime was at its worst, they could never be robbed of their faith.
The above video is just a two minute clip I found from a segment Diane Sawyer did entitled “Children of the Mountains.” I love it because it opens with this sweet girl, who has seen so much already in her short life, singing a song about Jesus. She believes. Through the nightmares she endures on a daily basis, she still believes.
She is often hungry. She often has to eat Ranch dressing, only Ranch dressing, for dinner. Her young cousin drinks Pepsi from her bottle. Her mother is a former drug addict just trying to make it and get a GED. She has no blankets, no sheets for her bed. She usually must sleep with her younger sister.
And yet. She still believes. And she sings songs about Jesus.
Her faith is staggering to me.
She is far wealthier than I.