My grandparents probably never thought they would see a global pandemic. Nonetheless, being a product of Appalachia, they're as prepared as anyone I know.
I've often asked my grandpa Argil to tell the story about the day he married my grandma. She got a new dress and shoes in town before they crossed the nearby state line, as his bride wasn’t of-age to marry in Virginia. They paid the courthouse officiant only $5 to marry them. My favorite part, their first meal that night was nothing more than 6 tough biscuits, of which he ate 5. In terms of strain, that event set up the rest of their lives to look much the same. Although in the years to come it would seem they had struggle as much as anything else, I get the feeling my grandpa felt like the richest man in the world.
Making the most of what they had and facing adversity head-on is probably what he would tell you got them through 63 years of marriage and counting. While my grandpa’s story is his own, it’s not all that unique to his generation or region. These common challenges are what make Appalachians some of the most resilient people in the world. There are hard working, appreciative people like them across cultures, but you’d be hard pressed to find any tougher.
As our area joins the rest of the world in the chaos of a time-stopping, deadly pandemic, I’ve seen family and friends left with no choice but to file for unemployment, and small businesses that support entire families have to shut their doors. These people, like generations of my own family, have worked hard and always made the most of what they were handed. In towns where the economy is mostly supported by a factory, a couple restaurants, and a school, it cuts deep when anything good goes.
I’ve found myself wondering what this could mean for our region. It’s hard to tell, but one thing is for sure: This health and economic crisis doesn’t stand a chance against our culture of resilience in Appalachia. If anything, it’s our culture that will get us through this time and the next calamity, in all probability, waiting down the road. It’s our culture that takes a dozen quarts of green beans from the shelf and sends them down the road to the family who just lost most of their livelihood. It’s our culture that starts a relief fund for local business owners when they can’t generate income, and it’s our culture that thrives in the most uncharted territory- isolated, economically challenged, and with few resources.
It’s that outpouring of generosity and community I’ve observed the past several weeks that really defines our region. Big businesses supporting relief efforts, small businesses and locals just as concerned for the greater good. We are a unique demographic of folks less worried about what people think and more invested in taking care of our own. It’s never been more apparent to me how proud I am to be a business owner from Appalachia.
Copyright ⓒ Forged Film Company 2020