Meeting the Deplorable

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“My insurance is gonna run out soon. Truman promised to take care of us.”

When you’re immersed in Appalachia, this statement translates quite easily: I used to work in the mines.

But the coal industry that sustained life in West Virginia – and, if we’re honest, the rest of America – is now idle. Caught in the political crosshairs, tens of thousands of men and women are now without work.

The local pastor with whom our mission team recently served was quick to redirect our sympathy: “I can’t even go through a metal detector – I got metal in my knees and hip!”

It was a light moment before the grim reality of the region intensified: There is no money.

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Descending the Ivory Tower

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My uncle is a plumber. To the average American, there is nothing exceptional about his life.

One Christmas, when our extended family still gathered for the holidays, my uncle was late. At the time he was working for a highly-esteemed university in our community.

The reason for his tardiness that particular year? He had been called in to shovel snow off of campus sidewalks.

I remember staring at him in disbelief. “But it’s Christmas.”

“Well,” he explained with an air of resentment, “those professors gotta have clear sidewalks so they can do their work.”

What I didn’t realize then was that this division – between the haves and the have-nots – was bigger than Christmas lunch that year. That it would only grow in the years to come. And that it would forever change our political landscape.

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Love: Where Fries Overcome Fear

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When life hands you a free milkshake, you say “yes”. But, the truth is, the last thing I wanted was more food.

For several moments, a scene had been eating away at my thoughts. A homeless man – not more than 30 years of age – waited on a curb of desperation outside of our local Walmart as we drove past. To help or not to help? The restless toddlers in the backseat only encouraged the excuses my mind so effortlessly generated.

No. Not tonight.

So we stayed the course to Chick-fil-A. The kids would share a “happy” meal, I would enjoy a leafy green salad, and the sunset would end a perfect evening.

Only I ordered fries I couldn’t eat. Then my son’s order was wrong, which resulted in four free chicken nuggets. And, perhaps most surreal of all, a cashier placed a free milkshake in my hand: “We forgot the whipped cream and cherry. Here!”

As my son’s ice cream cascaded down my wrist, I pondered the sticky dilemma. Light was fading, and so too was an opportunity.

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