Wednesday, April 23
Tuesday, April 22
She reached out for my hand and as she held on to me she said, in a sort of whimper, "I love you."
When loading into the car that morning to visit Ms. Molly (name changed) I didn't realize the impact a simple visit for an "exit interview" would have on me... or the impact of speaking on the phone earlier this week with an 80 year old woman who shared with me her life and constant battles living on a low income throughout her life. Also, she shared about her struggles with recently onset agoraphobia.
Each of these impactful moments happened as part of my new work at the Hinton Rural Life Center. The Hinton Center does home repairs, helps with landscaping, builds staircases and handicap ramps, etc. to over 100 homes each year in Western North Carolina. However, in my opinion it's biggest accomplishments involve visiting community members and building relationships with them.
Part of my job is to conduct exit interviews with different community members who received help from Hinton within the last two years. Hinton Center wants feedback in regards to the work accomplished and any suggestions the community may have. It is also a great way to stay in contact with those who have received help and show that Hinton still cares about them.
Something I quickly began realizing about this area is that many retirees are the majority of the people faced with the issue of poverty. Not just a financial poverty, but a social poverty as well.
I came to find out, for example, that Ms. Molly who should have family members taking care of her in her old age is stuck taking care of her only son who is around 40 but has lots of health problems. She can barely walk between her house and her son's house which is located just up the hill from her own and I just thought of how easy it would be for her to fall. Then, her desperate reaction to our short visit made me think it is not often that she receives visitors or gets to interact with people other than her son.
Yet, when I started thinking about her situation more, I realize her story of isolation and struggle is one of thousands in our nation. I think of the certain elderly who live almost abandoned as they live out the rest of their lives. Are they are fellow church members? Neighbors? Relatives?
I think of the volunteers from my home church who are dedicated to help deliver shut-in communion to church members who are unable to travel to church on Sundays. The time they spend sitting and listening to stories. How important that small amount of time can be!
I still feel Ms. Molly's grip as she shared such intimate words with me after just meeting me and think- how can we include our isolated elderly brothers and sisters into our communities more?
Monday, April 7
Osiyo (spelled phonetically)= Hello in Cherokee
Naksa= Hello in Miskito
When considering who exists within our marginalized populations within the United States, I have a feeling many of us forget to include the first persecuted groups... Native Americans or after my experiences in Nicaragua... indigenous groups.
Living in Western North Carolina I quickly began to realize I now live where part of the Cherokee Nation existed and where many Cherokee people still live today. Sadly, I don't know if I would be as interested in growing my knowledge of the Cherokee if I hadn't met several Miskito people in Nicaragua.
One of the most eye-opening experiences I had in regards to witnessing injustices that the Miskito people face was when I got to participate in a regional assembly for the RAAN. I witnessed people speaking in their native language, expressing their rights to share their opinions and experiences about the faults in health care and access.
Last week, I attended a Cherokee Culture Center dedication at the local library. Several Hayesville residents worked together to create an exhibit in the library and there is a "trail" leading to other exhibits and monuments. Many Cherokee were invited to the event including people who help with cultural preservation and education.
I really appreciated that when a local leader spoke he admitted that the committee from Hayesville all of "European descent" learned along the way and may have made some mistakes in trying to preserve the Cherokee history, but emphasized the effort is to honor the area's early history.
There was a pretty awful moment during the event, though. The library's little auditorium has a huge mural of when "Europeans" first settled Hayesville covering the front wall. My co-worker pointed out that she did find one black women in the mural who is wearing a maid outfit. The worst was when the presentor had the Eastern Band's Principal Chief take a picture with the dedication plaque in front of this horrible mural. Maybe the library can consider adding to the mural the history before the white people came as an even further recognition of the Cherokee.
One of my learning goals while I am living here is to understand more about the Cherokee history and perhaps learn a few words in Cherokee, too. As a person who lives with many privileges, I hope to continue recognizing my brothers and sisters who may face marginalization and to become more educated about their situations. I also realize that perhaps we can never be perfect at trying to close our gaps in society, but we can be vulnerable enough to try and humble to admit mistakes along the journey to learning more.