There’s a song I love, and every time I’d hear my kids singing it with their EFHS Elizabethan’s choir, I’d get teary-eyed. It’s a featured song during many of our singalongs on road trips, too. It’s called “My Home Among The Hills” by E. W. James Jr. It speaks a truth to me: “And though I may roam, I hurry home, To those friendly hills I love” and “My heart will be always in the West Virginia Hills”.
I once read a quite lengthy post on social media written by the daughter of someone I used to know well. The young lady was writing to thank her father for moving her out of the horrible state that was West Virginia. I was so shocked by the hatred in the post that I had to read it twice. It bothers me to this day! She had to have been very young when the move happened and I often wonder how her perception became so poisoned. Hers is not the West Virginia I know and love.
Yes, there are some bad people in our state. Yes, there is unemployment. There are drug addicts and a homeless population. There is incest. There is child abuse and elder abuse. There are some poor schools. There are bigots and rednecks. There are teen pregnancies and high school drop-outs. There are people who go to bed hungry. There is obesity. There are also people who can’t wait to leave. But, guess what? These things should not define us as West Virginians! All of these statements can be made about every state in our union and every country in our world!
There are also beautiful, kind, and gracious people in our state. Generous people. Smart people! There are job opportunities for those willing to work. Rehab centers. Good schools. People who love you just the way you are and because of the way you are. There are good single moms, grandparents willingly raising their grandchildren, and families willing to foster and/or adopt. There are even people who can’t wait to come back home. All of these statements can also be made about every state in our union, every country in our world!
When we first moved home to West Virginia the summer before I turned ten, I wasn’t happy to leave my friends behind. The day we were to leave, I hid so I wouldn’t have to go. With all the absent logic of a nine-year-old, I hid in the boat my Dad was going to be towing behind his truck on our cross-country drive. This wouldn’t have worked out well with my plan of staying behind had they decided to leave “without” me. I’ll leave out the ugly details, but by the time I was found, my father was even more unhappy than I was!
Looking back on the last 53 years, I can only thank my parents for bringing me to West Virginia and to the community where they were raised. For giving me the roots that are generations deep. For allowing me to grow up surrounded by the love and support that comes from a warm and caring community of people. For giving me the love of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. For the friendship of cousins and neighbors. For bringing me home.
When I read derogatory remarks made about West Virginia, and about the people who live here, I find myself feeling quite superior. The ignorance of some people, Bette Midler included, is appalling! It may be a few steps beyond normal, but I find myself not caring to educate them about the real West Virginia. Let our beautiful state remain the world’s best kept secret!