I have perhaps found more life lessons and harder rides in the Appalachian Mountains than anywhere so far. I have climbed more than 5,000 ft each of the last two days with climbs as steep as Missouri. Like most of us, I have my own preconceived ideas about Appalachia even though I have never been here. While taking lots of pictures of the area I realized today that pictures aren’t enough. A picture might be worth a 1000 words, but you’ve got to mingle with the people if you really want to know the true meaning of the picture.
Some observations from snapshots of Appalachia while on my bike include the following: 1) Lots of people go to church because there’s a church around every corner. 2) They’ve got guns here because many of the street signs are used for target practice. 3) They are wary of strangers because there are “No Trespassing” signs on literally every house. 4) The economy is supported by coal and all the other businesses have have “We Are Coal Friendly” signs.
But it wasn’t until I completed my ride today and arrived at the RV that I was able to mingle with people from Appalachia. Tonight our RV is parked next to a soccer field where a local high school team was running a scrimmage. The coach saw our RV and asked if I would talk with the girls about my ride and give a short devotional thought. So I walked over to the soccer field with Pam, Dorothy, and Bill to talk with the girls. After speaking with the girls we gave them each a Ride 4 Diapers business card. One girl, Frankie, came to talk with me after I had finished speaking. She wanted information on how she could do something for her community. We talked for a few minutes and she plans to have diaper drives at WalMart and her high school to distribute to the local pregnancy center.
We took a picture of Frankie with me, the only picture of real substance of Appalachia because it’s a picture of mingling. I now realize that though the people of Appalachia may have a different subculture than me, they respond to someone caring about their needs just like I do. The basic needs Jesus describes in Matthew 25 cuts across every culture. I have never seen Matthew 25 in that light before today. We all need food, water, clothing, and a friend to the stranger, the sick, and the imprisoned. This is the place to begin in any community anywhere in the world.
Ride Stats: Total Miles- 87.7 Elevation Gain- 5,164 ft Avg Speed- 11.1 mph Max Temp- 102.2 with 90% humidity
And here’s Frankie who is inspired to do diaper drives…