My favorite book of all time is Christy by Catherine Marshall. If you’ve never read it, let me give you a quick recap- a school teacher in the 1920s moves to rural Appalachia to educate a holler full of children. It is, in a word, magnificent.
I’ve read it, front to back, probably 50 times. That is not an exaggeration. That is a dorky fact.
My 8th grade spring break was to Cade’s Cove, TN to see where the television show was filmed. Also a dorky fact.[Insert embarrassing story here: When I was about 23, I met Catherine Marshall’s grandson, who was dating a friend of mine. He was maybe 19. I shook his hand and BURST INTO TEARS. Not surprisingly, we aren’t friends on facebook and I’ve never seen him again.]
That book made me want to be a teacher. And gave me some deep unexplainable love for the people that have tucked themselves, and their trailers and pickups and dirty clothes, in the nooks and crannies of the Appalachian mountains.
Another such book is The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers. Oh man… that’s a good one too. This one revolves around an old tradition of a Sin Eater, brought to the mountains by immigrants from Scotland.
I’ve been on two mission trips to the area. In fact, one of the trips was so moving to me that I used a story from the trip in the book I just finished writing-
We went to one house where it was a mom with seven children. None of them knew how to read (including the mom). They drank water, and made us lemonade, from a puddle where the dog was standing. The slept on chairs in a house with no doors or windows. They couldn’t go to school because the bus is unable to drive up the hill and the car doesn’t ever have any gas. It was absolutely unbelievable. And what did we do? Not much- played with the kids, cleared some trash out of her yard, and repaired her porch. But the sight of that woman crying as we left, thanking us so much for even coming over to see her, forever changed me. And it’s not like this happened in India or Africa or somewhere desolate and foreign. This happened here. In our country.
The chapter itself encourages folks to use their feet to go to places where there is great need. Sometimes that is over the ocean, sometimes that is over the Great Smoky Mountains.
So a couple of weeks ago when 20/20 did a feature called “Children of the Mountains“, you have no idea how many people emailed or called me- friends, knowing my heart for this region, making sure I saw the show. And I hadn’t. But oh modern day technology, with you and your TV on the internet, I finally was able to see the show this weekend thanks to abc.com.
Did anyone else see it? How can I even begin to describe what the story did to me? To my heart? It made me want to pack up and drive there. I don’t know where- to the first trailer park I see once I’ve driven into the mountains. To the first mission organization that is passing out clothing and food and hope to these neighbors. NEIGHBORS. People who, if they are able to get a driver’s license, have the same one that I do. Same state. Same radio stations. Very VERY different lives.[Hello my name is Annie. I am spoiled rotten and complain when I can’t afford sushi. Don’t be like me.]
I don’t know what to do about what I feel. Moving to the rural backwoods of Tennessee doesn’t really seem to be the plan that God has for me today. So I’m not really writing this to say anything profound or make any announcement about some ministry I’m joining. I’m just sad that such poverty lives mere hours from me and I do nothing about it. That a people group that I am truly passionate about is closer to my home than ever before and I had forgotten they existed.
Step 1 is admitting it, right? Step 2 is doing something about it. So maybe I will.