A Plea For Aleppo

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I can’t stop staring at this picture.

I don’t know these people and I don’t have to know them for this picture to wreck me.  I fell asleep in a warm bed last night, next to my husband, our animals flanking us on every side and also in the floor.  In the haven of my bedroom, in the house that I own, in a peaceful nation, in a town far from conflict, I found rest.

The man pictured does not know rest.  His eyes are heavy and weary, and I can’t wrap my head around his burden.  Is that his only child?   Did he have more children and lose them to the tragedies of war?  I want to know his story.  I wish I could clothe him and his wife, give them a warm meal, a shower, a soft bed, and rock that baby so Mama and Daddy could sleep.  No.  So Mama and Daddy could rest.  Truly rest.  I wish I could tell them that peace is possible.  I wish I could hug them so tight and let them weep if needed, or just let them know that someone cares.

Some people are more equipped for empathy than others.  There are people who can see the above picture and move on with their lives, but I am not that person.  I’m still staring at it, searching, wishing I could reach through it and offer everything I have to those 3 souls.  My empathy runs to a fault, my heart bleeds at the sight of injustice, at hurt, at brokenness, at despair.  I stay awake at night, thanking God for the things that I have and asking Him why others aren’t as fortunate.  I don’t understand why I have been dealt a favorable hand and these folks haven’t.  It’s hard for me to accept, and it’s something I talk about with God often.  I don’t have any answers, but I will keep asking and I will keep searching.

This awful world is filled with stories like these.  Aleppo is not new, but it’s here and in our faces this holiday season.  Bloodied faces of innocent children live tweeting their own demise, the story ending as a 140 character Auschwitz in real time before the eyes of the entire world.  I can’t shake it.  With every gift I purchase and wrap, I think about how those dollars could buy meals for the family above or for the families unseen.  Recently, Chad’s overtime was cut and we’ve watched every penny, but every penny that we have is more than what any of these folks have.  So, anything I can give, I know goes to use.  And any spare penny you can give will go to use as well.

Scroll up and look at that picture again.  Step outside of your comfortable home, in your safe town, up your safe holler (hollow for you folks reading not from Appalachia), on your safe street, and imagine being that man and woman.  They are just people, born in a different part of the world than us, who had no choice in the matter.  We must move beyond our own insularity, and realize we are chosen to help and be present. We are the haves, for whatever reason, and we can be the good.

To give some context to this plea, visit PreemptiveLove.Org and read about the work they are doing in Syria (and other places in the middle east).  This is an organization brought to my attention in a post by Jen Hatmaker, but I did my own research on it’s validity.  You can do your own research, too.  But, please, open your heart to the people of Aleppo today.  If you can give, please give.  If you pray, please pray.

Please, Lord, let this man, woman, and child realize they are not alone.

 

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I hate cliche country songs about growing up in Appalachia.  I mean… really hate.  Maybe I’m not supposed to hate anything, but I hate any song about a dirt road and somebody’s Daddy and Bud Light.  Not because Bud Light is awful (it is) and because I’ve got Daddy issues (I do) but because songs like that are just awful.  They’re terrible.  So, when I sit down to write about being from Appalachia, I have to make sure that I don’t reinforce these assumptions about Appalachia.  For example, I have amazing teeth and I love shoes and I’m not on the draw.  I know lots of folks like me, believe it or not.

Considering how opposite I am from a lot of folks around here, people ask me why I stayed.  Well, I’ll be really honest — I didn’t want to stay.  I never thought that I would.  I got a bangin’ job right after I turned 22 and just recently passed my 8th workiversary (10 years total — I worked part time from 2006 to 2008).  I had this big pact with myself that when I turned 25 I would take a look at finances and where I was and decide if I wanted to stay in eastern Kentucky.  I didn’t do that.  You want to know why?  Because I was comfortable, perhaps a little complacent, and more than that, I was home.

See, no matter where I go, these hills are home.  I absolutely love to travel and experience new places, new people, new sounds, new food (omg food), but by the end of my journey I ache for the familiarity of what I’ve always known.  When those hills come into view, no matter where I’m coming from, the feeling comforts me like a big plate of starchy carbs.  Yeah, I just compared the hills of eastern Kentucky to starchy carbs.  They are that good.

I have nothing against anyone who has ever left.  Lord no.  There’s not much here and it’s getting worse by the day.  Friends are leaving because there’s no work, the best and brightest move to bigger areas for opportunity, and I get it.  I get it and sometimes, I get jealous of folks who start to build a life away from eastern Kentucky.  See, I honestly thought I would be somewhere doing something with more value, but I’m not sure I ever really gauged what ‘value’ meant in that equation.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that I just answer a phone for a living.  Now, this is just about me and nobody else, I earn an honest living just like my coworkers and we work hard, harder than most people realize.  I just, I guess I really thought that I might have a different path and more of a voice.  Good news is, I’m only 30, so there’s still plenty of time left to find that voice.  I hope.

But, I think that voice has to be meant to do something here.  I get so mad at it, but I love this place.  I love how we get the best of every single season, I love summer and the haze that lingers against the greenery, I love winter and a snow that covers every tree limb, I love fall and how the colors paint the hills for weeks and then bleed away, and most of all I love that I can go see my Mom, my sister, my brother, and my in laws in one day and come back home and sleep in my own bed. I love ‘y’all’ and ‘I don’t reckon’, and I love that I hug people like a true baptist and beat your back off if I don’t watch myself.  I love that Paintsville inexplicably has three Mexican places, but I hate that none of them have the right about cilantro and spice in their salsa (Toro Loco does, however.  What’s good, Louisa?).  I love my accent and how I cannot say a single word with a vowel and not make that one single, solitary vowel sound like fifteen vowels.  I love that I can’t hide that I’m from Appalachia, because it’s not something I am ashamed of or ever want to hide.

We’re pretty good folks out here.  I worry on a regular basis about what will come of us and these hills, if we’ll ever find an industry to replace coal, and if we’ll be okay.  Some days, I don’t think we will be.  I think about if I will have to move, if my family might have to leave, and what will still be standing in a decade.  For as long as I’ve roamed these back roads, we’ve figured it out, one day at a time.  I’m not sure how to keep us going and how to sustain life around here, but I want to help figure it out in any way that I can.  The page has turned for us, and if we keep flipping back through the book wishing for previous chapters, we’re going to completely knock ourselves out of ever learning the rest of the story.

Appalachia is a special place, whether people want to believe that or not.  We’re a heck of a lot more than fast food restaurants and Walmart.  Some of the most intelligent, talented, artistic, kind, all around best people that I’ve ever known live up a holler somewhere carved out in these hills.  For as much as I get frustrated, I believe I’m exactly where I need to be.  I am doing what I was picked to do and I don’t think that has anything to do with my career path.

Also, my Diary Queen has the best hotdog with mustard, sauce (chili? do you call it chili? you’re a terrorist), and slaw, so why aren’t you coming to hang out like right now?

Seriously.