When I looked around for “real people doing the real thing” in my community, the first person I knew I had to take a peek at more closely was my friend Stacey. Stacey is an ordained minister, licensed pastoral counselor, and certified chaplain. But it’s her tireless work as program director of the Scott County Hospitality House that inspires me most. So I asked her about it.
Take a peek and be inspired yourself.
Let's start with your story. What prompted you to start
In 2010 I was working as the Family Resource Coordinator at a local elementary school when I became aware that we had homeless children in our school sleeping in their car. Then I began praying about it, and reflecting on the fact that children cannot possibly get a good start in school, or focus on academic work when they don’t know where they will sleep at night. During this time, homeless children and their parents had to go to shelters in nearby cities or other surrounding counties which meant uprooting them from their schools, thus further traumatizing them.
So, after much prayer it became clear to me that this was a moral imperative and that I had to do something to help our local families remain in our own county while assisting them to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. God had always given me a heart for the poor and a sense of solidarity with their struggles, so as I researched more about their needs, it became clear that I had to do something. Thus the creation of Hospitality House.
Unlike those people who flock to the grocery store for bread and milk whenever a slight dusting of snow is predicted, I am a doubter when it comes to meteorological predictions. (Alright, so I always keep a well-stocked pantry of staple foods, which means I can afford to mistrust the weatherfolk.)
Even though I had heard that a major collision of cold and warm fronts was scheduled to occur on Friday–that this storm would spawn tornadoes across the middle of America, that cities from Nashville to Indianapolis to those in Ohio would be likely to be affected, that this same storm system had already caused much damage in Missouri and other midwestern states–well, even with all of this, and with knowing that I live smack dab between Tennesee and Ohio, somehow I was still surprised to learn that all of the local public schools, colleges and universities, and local businesses were closing by 3 pm on Friday. And somehow I still didn’t know how to feel about the enormous red circle of storms on the weather map, the tornado warnings that approached slowly county-by-county, the friends who arrived with carry-out Thai food to share our basement with us.
Back in February, I wrote a post called Where is “Home”? Does It Matter? and then followed it with Where is “Home”? Does It Matter” (the gardening version). Those posts were actually provoked by an article my mom sent me, since she’s the kind of person who tears things out of magazines and then drops them in an envelope, slaps a stamp on it, and trusts the Postal Service to do its business. I like this about her. (Don’t worry, friends, I like those of you who just e-mail me links to articles, too.)
The piece was an article from Smithsonian Magazine written by a professor at the University of Kentucky. I think my mom sent it for two reasons–one, out of curiosity to ask if I knew this particular professor, and two, because it was about central Kentucky, that mysterious place of Baptists, bourbon, and horse-racing I now call “home.”
This week’s guest post was written by our friend, Adam. Among his many talents are working with youth, making pizza, playing the guitar, piano, and harmonica–one of those play-by-ear-folks who always impress me–and getting the answers correct in the “Sports and Leisure” category of Trivial Pursuit. He spent his first year out of college living in community with us and, unintentionally, teaching us a lot about ourselves. Here he writes about beginning the next stage of his journey.
I moved in to my first apartment a few weeks ago and was uncertain what to expect.
After signing my life away to the management (which has gone down as one of the most nerve-wracking hours of my life so far), my two roommates and I walked over to our new building and up the stairs to our new home.
Now, in reality, the place is a little rough and in need of a little loving. Or a complete remodeling. But for the three of us, it was the beginning of new chapter in our lives. The other two have recently graduated from college and are considering options for their respective futures. For me, life is working two jobs and going to seminary. We’re not looking to be too picky here.
One of the things we’re enjoying about living in this part of the country is that if you drop a seed in the ground, it usually grows. Some people disagree with me on this point, and to them I say this: You have not lived in Texas.
In blogging about community, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, on this weekend in particular, the thread of “community” that ties this part of the country together.
But first, let me take a brief detour.
About a year ago, walking across campus on a sunny afternoon, I was stopped on the sidewalk by two undergrads with a video camera, who were doing a project for their communications course. “Will you answer a question for us?” they asked. “It will only take a few seconds.” I agreed.
“All we need you to do is introduce yourself and then tell us where you’re going to be watching the game tomorrow night.”
The camera rolled. “Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I won’t be going anywhere to watch the game tomorrow night.”
“So you’ll just watch it at home?”
“You won’t be watching the game?”
“Well, I didn’t even know there was a game tomorrow night.”
Let’s just say it wasn’t the answer they were expecting. Continue reading
This week’s guest post is from my friend and neighbor Ashley, who is also a transplant to the middle of America. A mother of a nine-month-old, she makes a mean dessert, as anyone who joins us for monthly potlucks knows. Last night, we shared a dose of community together by eating waffles, ice cream sundaes, and king cake in honor of Fat Tuesday. Today, the first day of Lent, Ashley reflects on settling in to life in Kentucky, feeling at “home,” and why it’s hard to do all by yourself.
“Home is where the heart is happy” is printed on a little plaque that my mother-in-law has sitting in front of her sink. Every time I see it, it makes me smile because it’s so true. I’ve never had a hometown and when people ask me where I’m from it always takes me a minute to answer. I’m torn about giving the person way more than they asked for and completely explaining where indeed I am from, because like many people these days, my family moved around some when I was growing up. My moving doesn’t hold a candle to some military families but I have long felt that the communities that I have been a part of have shaped me into the person I am today.
Most recently, however, I am from Kentucky. It has taken me about Continue reading
When I go back to the part of the country I most often call “home,” people tend to ask me how I like Kentucky. Usually I say, “I like it.” And then I say, “It’s not Pennsylvania, and it’s not really home, not yet, but it’s a good place.”
People these days are pretty mobile, if you haven’t noticed. Even on Facebook, most people I know list two categories: “Lives in ________” and “From ________.” Often these two places are very far apart. Very.
It’s a blessing that we can travel at the drop of a hat, that we can go and live where we are called, that we can experience the culture and community of different regions, that we can learn funny colloquialisms and crazy food choices of new friends.
But it also makes life pretty darn difficult. Families get seen only at holidays or major life events, like weddings and funerals, and sometimes then only if you’re lucky. Best friends live states away, and we have to miss birthday lunches and baby showers. When cousins marry, sometimes we’ve never met the new spouse until the wedding day.
Sure, we keep in touch thanks to amazing technology, but we get very little real-life interaction, very little face-time. We can Skype and laugh and share good news via Continue reading
Today, over a thousand Kentuckians concerned about the future of our state’s environment, livelihood, culture, and people gathered on the steps of the capitol, capping off a weekend of protest that involved a handful of our local celebrities, including the more widely known Mr. Berry. This colorful group of folks carried signs, chanted chants, played music, hollered, swore a little bit, smiled a lot, passed around petitions, signed Valentine’s Day cards for the governor, and, well, supported a cause they believed in.
The “I Love Mountains” rally occurs every year about this time, around Valentine’s Day, when Congress is in session, as a way to push for clean-energy legislation and, at the same time, end mountain top removal.
I’d never been to a rally like this before, and though I’ll refrain from getting political, let me just say this: Continue reading
As Elaine said recently in a comment on the blog, “whether you want to be a part of community or not, if you are alive, you are.”
We’re all part of communities, though we might draw our lines in the dirt differently. What might count as a community to me might not for you. Jobs, churches, neighborhoods: these are all broad communities. I share an office space with five other people; two of us are in the same cubicle: I like to think of these as communities-within-communities. I’m in a monthly writing group and a weekly reading group, both mini communities. I’m a graduate student, a writing center consultant, a freelance editor, writer, and blogger–each of these putting me in regular contact with different groups of people, different communities.
And then there are friends: from high school, college, J’s grad school, my grad school, from church and Sunday school and contemplative prayer… gosh, I feel like I’ve littered communities everywhere we’ve lived over the last few years: Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and now Kentucky.
And now here we are, planted. I shop at the same grocery store, go to the same bank, eat at the same handful of non-chain restaurants in my little town–and at each of these places I nearly always see people I know. Nearly always. It’s a small enough place.
It’s nice to be planted, though it’s still hard to keep track of my roots. (But that’s a blog post for another day…)