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Monday, March 15, 2010


glade valley presbyterian

A day of varieties of feelings, thoughts running all over the place, an urge to sit down and write, but no idea what I feel so compelled to say. It's a feeling in the heart, a need to write what I'm feeling that has no words. The feeling is a heart overflowing with love for all that's around me at any time of day. Drank coffee in the evening yesterday and didn't sleep much. Got up in the night and read some in the Monk biography, which is beautifully written and gives a good picture of the world around him, late 30s Harlem, the world of night clubs, the musicians, the club owners, the 40s, the 50s, the time of jazz in Harlem when be-bop was brewing. Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins. Sometimes it feels like I'm there, hearing the band on a little stage in a little club with little tables, everything packed together, the musicians as crowded as the audience. Smoke, liquor, women, men, and what comes next when you mix all them together. Anything and everything.

At our BROC (Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission) meeting today held at the Head Start office on Crawford St., we were dined with chili burgers and cole slaw. About 20 kids there. They were truly a cute bunch of pre-school kids. Something I noticed struck me curious. The "white" kids were the only ones that looked like they didn't have any love in their lives. The Mexican, or Hispanic, kids had a radiance about them and in their eyes. On sight I could see they had plenty of love at home. Some of the white kids looked drawn in the face, no gleam in their eyes, no expression of any sort on their faces. My heart went to them. I saw they have little to no love at home. I felt like the kids were at least being loved by the adult women there at Head Start. Caring women make a great deal of difference to a heart-sick child.

One little girl, red around the eyes, wan in the face with eyes expressionless, I can't get out of my mind. I feel like I know what she's going through and she is without recourse in any direction; even God doesn't help. I may be dramatizing, but I don't think so. I'd guess the child has seen things we don't want to know about. It was such a curious contrast with the Hispanic kids, eyes bright and alert with round, bright faces. My guess is that south of the border they live with poverty a whole lot better than we white folks do. A pre-school kindergarten can't do a lot toward putting light back in a kid's eyes, but it can give a little light of hope where there is none, maybe. It's worth the chance. The women there are all big hearted mamas. The kids are in good hands that care. They are influences aimed at helping the kids develop their own character.

Our Alleghany branch of BROC is called the Alleghany Planning Committee. The new woman who keeps the office, can't say secretary anymore -- a dead word, office manager, wrote out three pages, copies to all of us present, of the 26 case histories through January and February of assistance we've given people seeking help to pay electrical bills, each one of them so obviously in dire need, it feels like doing the right thing to help one of them, but 26 is quite a lot given our little county. We raise the money once a year with the Hillbilly Show for helping people who need help. This winter was a lethal winter for the infirm and poor. People need help. No matter what scripture you read of the variety of world religions, we're urged to help people around us in need, to take an interest in the well-being of someone who can't help him/her self get along in this world for a great variety of possible reasons. Why they're poor is not our concern. Every one has a particular reason for their poverty in an unforgiving society that doesn't tolerate the poor.

I like this particular bunch of people working with our mountain county BROC. About half of them I knew before. It's a bunch of people who are lively and live full lives, love God and look after one another. I know for a certainty that if I were struck down with one thing or another and needed some help, they'd all come running. That's the kind of people they are. It's what they'd all do for each other. At the Hillbilly Show, this is the bunch of people you see on stage and selling tickets. What makes the Hillbilly Show work is all the people on the stage cuttin up and acting a fool are people who care. They care about each other and they care about the people in the audience. They care about everybody in their lives, in their community. When I sit at the long table with them, I feel the comfort of home. The women bring covered dish and it's the same as dinner outside after communion. Mountain cooking at its best. It's a feast every time of cooking by the different women. All of it is good. The men pig out and leave the place with bellies hanging over their belts.

Agnes Joines is the head knocker, and it's a well known fact that if you want something done, give it to Agnes. She's on town council, and she's good. She's good at rules of order and that way of thinking. Of different meeting experiences I've had over the years in Sparta, BROC is the only one where anything has ever got done. There's an art to meeting-going that I don't get, and the rest of the people of BROC don't get either. We want to get something done. Meetings have become entities like cocktail parties where you stand around and talk at length with great perpendicularity and say absolutely nothing. It's an art form. Some people are great at it, like riding a surf board. I never got it.

In a movie I saw Saturday, The Belly of an Architect, by Peter Greenaway, English, filmed in Italy and Rome, I heard a good one that's been with me since. The character the architect is American and his wife is American, from Chicago. Two suave Italian men in tuxedos are talking about them. One said, 'What does his wife think?' The other said, 'She doesn't think. She's American.' The woman in silk said, Uhm, the way it would be said in polite society after someone let slip the racial slur that starts with n. A sigh of disapproval, but no more.

That was in my mind at the meeting today and I looked around at everybody, and saw them all people who think. Every one of them has a good head on the shoulders and give consideration to their decisions. These are country people. Italians don't get exposed much to country people, only to Americans that can afford to spend time in Italy or anyplace else. That's why I like being among these people, as I said above. Because they care, they think. For me, it fulfills what I believe a church is meant to be, an assembly of caring people whose purpose is to help the poor in the community. I like about it that there's no denomination, no dogma, nothing to memorize, no saying you have to believe this way or else, no religion, no saying ours is the only way, no us against them. Just a bunch of caring people that get together to help out some people in times of stress, at least a little bit. And we have a good time doing it.

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