I’ve been off the bubble for a few days—just a bit beside myself. It happens when something or someone stimulates me to look at myself or examine portions of culture or the world I don’t know much about; but know it needs help.
It usually is connected to one question: What can I do about it? It is usually connected to an answer: I don’t know—probably nothing.
At the suggestion of my granddaughter, I’ve been reading Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. (© 2016, Harper) My Grande goes to University of Kentucky. The book’s setting is in Appalachian-Kentucky. I love Kentucky blue and have worked in some churches there, but J. D. Vance describes his experiences growing up in a culture I know little about.
A “common culture” is to say, “This is the way we do things around here.”
Within a mile of this computer desk there are adults and many children who do not say y’all or know the strange allure of Kentucky hills, but know they know the life:
It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead counteracting it.
“Too many young men immune to hard work. Good jobs impossible to fill for any length of time. And a young man with every reason to work—a wife-to-be to support and a baby on the way—carelessly throwing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it is all over, he thought something had been done to him. There is a lack of agency here—a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself.”
“My primary aim is to tell a true story about what that problem feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.” (pages 7-8)
J. D. Vance made it out. He went to the University of Ohio and the law school at Yale. He is a lawyer today, married and living a long way from the Kentucky holler which he loves. The odds of that outcome, are huge!
Vance concludes his memoir with a story about fifteen-year-old Brian.
“What happens to Brian?”
“I believe we hillbillies are the toughest…people on this earth. But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children?
Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them.
“I don’t know what the answer is, precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming the POTUS or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.” (Pages 255-6)
That pushes me way off the bubble. I still don’t know what I can do to help kids in that culture whether they live in our town or in Kentucky.
We sponsor a teen in Ethiopia and an early teen in Honduras. When we met a family from Sudan, we were introduced to the phrase “Unaccompanied Minors.” They told us their stories and the phrase became more than unsettling. It was painful and about young men and women whose names we knew. (I tell some of their story in “Gone to Southwood.”)
I know God’s Kingdom—presence, power, provision, revelation, gifts, to name some manifestations, is not limited to “someone ought to do something.” I am nagged by the constant thought that maybe rather than trying to support a child in Honduras, we could look at the kid from Honduras sitting on our southern border as a hand-delivered gift. I’m sure adults like Mr. J.D. Vance could come up with some strategies.
Unaccompanied Minors come from assorted nations and American states—and cities.
©2019 D. Dean Benton Writer, Wonderer, Frustrated Jesus Follower
Dean’s ebooks: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/880323