I don’t like people thinking of this part of our state as being poor. Maybe in dollars and cents that might be true. Southeastern Kentucky might be listed as one of the poorest regions in the United States per capita, (especially since coal mining jobs are vanishing) but that doesn’t take into consideration the generous spirits of the people who live here.
I think of all the ways people have been kind to me and helped me out since I came home to live in this part of the state and I am overwhelmed with the love and support that I’ve experienced. I could fill pages, and I dare say that most people could do the same.
If someone is sick and others know about it, someone will show up to check on them or bring them food. People offer to run errands or carry in groceries. There will be regular phone calls to make sure the invalid is getting better. We pray for each other’s needs and concerns. All of those things lift the spirit of the one who is sick or going through a hard time and lets them know they are an important part of the family, church, job, friends and/or community.
On the occasion of a death — family, friends and community members gather around to support those who have suffered the loss. They grieve with them, cry with them, laugh with them over good memories, and make sure there is plenty of homemade food from the time of death, through the visitation and burial. The attitude is that those who have suffered a loss shouldn’t have to worry about daily necessities like food when they are trying to cope with so many other decisions and adjustments. The grieving person does not have to walk through their sorrow alone.
When a house burns and a family loses all of their earthly belongings, people will immediately start trying to get clothes sizes for family members, and help them recover necessities they have lost. Whether it be clothes, an old set of dishes, linens, or toys for children, people will try to help out.
On joyous occasions like weddings, baby births, and graduations – people show up with food and gifts. We share in the hard times and in the good.
I have a friend who was once a teacher at a Native American Reservation School. She knew plenty of people worth millions. She let the needs of her students be known. They had very basic tools and none of the extras like art supplies. When she came to visit here, she left with the back end of her station wagon loaded. She said it was ironic that the wealthiest and most able to help were indifferent, but those who would have been considered poor by that group of people were the ones who poured out so generously.
It seems to me that as long as we have enough to share with those who have a genuine need, we are never really poor. We are blessed with more than enough. I didn’t really know just how rich we are until after I had gone on a mission trip to work with a trash dump community in Guatemala where the people lived and functioned in the midst and on the edge of an actual enormous trash dump.
We are rich in spirit. We are rich in love for each other and for God. We may not have expensive pieces of artwork in our homes, but we are surrounded by the unbelievable beauty of nature all around. We have gifted people in all manner of the arts — poets, writers, singers, actors, story tellers, artists, photographers, carvers, weavers and more.
If others measure our wealth in dollars and cents, we will come out on the short end. But if we are measured by the strength of the human spirit, the kindnesses we extend, and the support we provide to each other, we are truly rich in ways that cannot be measured!