Saturday, September 27

Single Stories

"All consciousness raising, or awareness, begins with personal relationships. It doesn’t matter how many books you read, or how many times you read the news online or in a daily paper, or how many journals or policy briefings you peruse. Banners and bumper stickers are worthless. These things may lift up “issues” worthy of our attention, but as long as we are able to objectify certain things as “issues,” then we are removed from the urgency, the immediacy, the living, breathing reality of our fellow humans." 
-Wes Magruder

I've had an idea floating around about what I wanted to write about on my blog for sometime and then a friend shared this quote on his Facebook status and it continued to add to my feelings of getting out of our "single stories."In the summer of 2012, when I went through Missionary training in New York, we watched this video. In the video, Chimanda Adiche talks about the discovery of her own culture amidst a single story and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. If you don't have time to watch the entire video, I encourage you to at least watch the first five minutes.

I knew right then and there that God's largest calling for me in this journey is to get outside of my "single story", or as I often call it, my "bubble." How often do we ALL re-learn the lesson over and over that we just don't truly understand someone until we begin a personal relationship with them. Christ crossed all sorts of boundaries set in place by society. We must cross boundaries. We must leave our little, happy, warm places of comfort. 

I don't think I even need to explicitly point out that what we see in our media, news, and literature will often only feed us a "single story". Today many of the issues that flash across our news sources encourage us to think in a biased manner. Yet, Jesus Christ himself ignored the stories spewing out of the mouths of the majority and helped the Disciples expand the stories of others.

Everyday I am learning something new as I live in a small, rural, Southern, mountain town. I'm learning what it's like for people to visit the local food pantry once a week to help save money. I'm learning about the use of EBTs or food stamps and how many people in need don't receive very many. I'm learning about the desirefor a peaceful way of living from both the people who have lived here their entire lives and those who choose to retire here  I'm learning how some people continue to can vegetables and a few others still use a wood burning stove to heat their homes. I'm learning of the history of the Cherokee's banishment from the area. Everyday my story expands little by little, yet I know there will always be something more to learn. If I let myself get too comfortable it what I already understand and know, I will fail God's calling to grow.

Here are a few more interesting facts/demographics about Clay County, NC:

  • 260 people live within the city limits of Hayesville
  • 10,000 live in Clay County
  • 3 schools (Elementary, Middle, High) all located on the same campus but in 3 different buildings
  • 2 stop lights
  • New, fancy grocery store with organic food options
  • local farmer's market every Thursday evening
  • many different food giveaway programs
  • families who have lived here for generations and generations
  • retirees who used to vacation here
  • LOTs of thrift stores benefitting local resource agencies/non-profits
  • 30 minute drive to go to a Walmart
  • 20+ minute drive to go to a hospital
  • remnants of a moon shine culture- streets named things like "Thumping Hills"
  • families who live on their family's street "Penland" "Roach"
  • public transportation exists- but you have to plan in advance and wait a while
  • local dialect- "you'ins" "have a good'in"
  • probably 90% white, 4% hispanic, 1% black/African American
  • LOTs of churches- even in small neighborhoods
  • highest speed limit in the area is 55mph
  • many people have their own gardens
  • only 20% of the population has a Bachelor's degree or higher
  • statistics show that the median household income is $30,000- $35,000 but this contains outliers from transplant community members

Wednesday, September 10

Summer Season

I am not going to even start to explain my long absence... I had a CRAZY SUMMER SEASON working at a mission outreach retreat center. But I am back in action in the world of blog writing. 

This summer Hinton Center hosted 1,200 volunteers who worked within our community, helping local homeowners with different home repairs/projects. Teams built ramps, and decks. They repaired sub-flooring. Some installed vinyl flooring as well as new doors and windows. Others scraped and painted houses, ramps, and living rooms. Yet, I believe encouraging and uplifting the local community members is the biggest achievement of the summer.

I first encountered Mindy at our weekly Thursday night dinner on Hinton Hill as she requested to talk on the microphone in front of 150 people . Each Thursday the teams invited the homeowners to partake in a celebratory meal with us. Before eating teams share about their experiences and what work they accomplished during the week. According to my colleague, when the volunteers first arrived to Mindy's house she acted very shy and hesitant in regards to the presence of visitors at her home. The team began painting the outside of Mindy's house the first day, but decided to leave early to allow time for Mindy to adjust to the new visitors. Mindy lost her husband a few years ago and ever since has somewhat lived the life a hermit and one might say as someone who hoards a bunch of stuff. The volunteers and Mindy slowly began to bond. Mindy began to open up emotionally and to open up her house to the team members. She even allowed one volunteer to help sort and donate a good amount of her things. Fast forward to Thursday night of that week and there stood Cindy in front of all of those people, holding a microphone. Similar to when the volunteers first entered her home, she hesitated. She stood almost frozen with eyes glued to her. Then, the words of gratitude poured out. She explained to all of us how the volunteers had truly changed her life and helped her realize she was living a life of solitude. They helped her escape the overwhelming feelings associated with her living situation. We are now working with Mindy so that she can volunteer with us and also give back to someone in the community.

Stories like Cindy's represent the true accomplishments our volunteers and staff achieved this summer. Her story can also remind us all of the importance of embracing community, allowing our communities to help restore, encourage, and motivate each of us.