Hope’s still alive in Alabama

Published 12:47 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

By Larry Lee

Don’t you believe them. Not for even one minute. You know, those folks on TV cable news sitting there in their makeup and slicked down hair telling us how terrible the world is. Those faceless voices on talk radio that rant and rave that no one in this country gives a damn anymore and that the end is just around the corner.

They don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t have a clue. Their world is so focused on gloom and doom and blame it’s unlikely they would know a good deed if they saw it—and surely would not give it any credence.

Why do I know they are wrong?

Because I’ve been down a dirt road in Clarke County.

Last summer I wrote about visiting an ancient, bare-bones mobile home on a dirt road in the woods of this southwest Alabama county. A home where a single mother and her two children face each day with determination—and little else. A home where poverty is as persistent as the kudzu that relentlessly crawls over anything in its path under a July sky.

I told about how this mother, herself a high school dropout, does all she can in hopes that the future her son and daughter will soon encounter will hold more promise than her own.

I made no plea for help, did not ask for people to loosen their purse strings or search their garages for used appliances and still good furniture. It was just a simple story of one among us, not unlike many, many others, whom good fortune overlooked.

Still newspapers from one end of the state to the other ran the story and the goodness of the people of this wonderful state immediately kicked in. They did not squat in front of their TV and embrace the mindless diatribe that no one cares. Instead, they sent countless emails asking what they could do, wanting to know where to send a check, inquiring about how a delivery could be made.

Because they are the heart and soul of this land—not those who are so quick to point a finger at “them.” They understand that it is better to help your neighbor than to blame him for whatever you may perceive to be wrong.

As a result, an air-conditioner began humming in a place where one had never been. Suddenly there was a stove and a refrigerator filling what had only been empty places in an old kitchen.

There was a new mattress and a recliner. A church trailer from north Alabama unloaded two bedroom suites, a kitchen table and six chairs. There were new school clothes and books and a visit from an exterminator.

There was payment of utility bills and checks and school supplies.

It was the most genuine sort of giving. People like me and you opened their hearts, not because someone cajoled them, not because all their friends were doing it, not because they scored points with their boss, but simply because pausing to share with someone less fortunate is what good people do. These are the people who some in our midst refuse to believe exist.

In this most joyous of all seasons we can all take heart in knowing that Christmas came down a dirt road in Clarke County months ago because Alabamians refuse to buy into the notion that hope is dead.


Larry Lee led the study, Lessons Learned from Rural Schools, and is a long-time advocate for public education and frequently writes about education issues. larrylee33@knology.net