Tomorrow I leave for another week long work trip to Appalachia along with seven other adults and twenty-two high school students. This is a part of our country where I have traveled for at least a week each summer for more than thirty years. A part of our country which is breathtakingly beautiful and which struggles every day against soul crushing poverty.
I used to think it was the porch that was important.
Or the roof.
Or the floors.
Or whatever it was were asked to build or repair.
And, then I realized it was not just the porch, but the hope that was important.
The reminder that someone remembered them.
That someone cared about them.
This time I am thinking it is the bridge that is important.
That bridge we have a chance to build between one of the most affluent zip codes in our country, with all that represent’s and one of the least affluent zip codes, with all that represents. How often, across that immense divide, do I have the opportunity or make the opportunity to sit on their porch and to listen to their stories? How often do I ask about their families and their concerns and do my best to see the world through their eyes. And not just me. What about the twenty-two high school students who will be with me?
The porch is still important.
And the roof that will not leak the next time it rains.
And, the new floors and the handicapped ramp.
We will do our best to make sure the work we are asked to do gets done and done well.
But, in the end, it is the bridge we build and the friendships we form, that will make the difference.