Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The hospital where I work is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Just off to our east is a beautiful mountain range that I sometimes have the pleasure of watching the sun rise over on my way to work. You can only see the display from certain parts of town. Whenever I top a hill and see the dark hills I think about some of the people who live there. I sometimes pass their homes on back roads – dilapidated shacks with smoke rising from wood stoves and dogs running in the yard. They look like child-proofing nightmares.

They come to the hospital for medical care or to visit sick relatives and at first when I saw them I had to avert my eyes. These people were born and raised in a culture so incredibly different than the average American, and you can read this fact in their weathered faces and eyes that show their discomfort at being out of their element. They are Appalachian. They are impoverished. They don’t conform to our idea of “pretty” because they aren’t immersed in a society that values overt beauty. They don’t know what they don’t know.

Now, on the rare occasion I see someone that looks like they came from one of these photos, I want to tell them not to look so ashamed…to hold eye contact with me or to say hi first. We all, to some degree, don’t know how to act. We suspect maybe we aren’t quite measuring up to societal expectations that are always changing.

I’m beginning to hear the opening music for “We are the World” in my head and think I should end this post before I’m tempted to skip through the halls of the hospital pushing wheelchairs and singing about unity. All photos by Shelby Lee Adams.

4 comments:

Gail and Keith said...

You are a gifted writer, Jennifer. Through your writing you give your readers a window that enables them to see what you see, feel what you feel, almost as if one was there experiencing it for oneself. You have an ability to paint graphic word pictures. Perhaps you should look into ways to share it with the wider world. G

Tiffany T. said...

i love shelby lee adams. I spent an entire day looking at his pics and reading his blog one time. so amazing.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Gail :-)

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

"They don't know what they don't know." This post is so beautiful and true. It has me all goose-bumped. Thank you so much for sharing this and for stopping by my place so that I could find yours!