Fall is coming to our beautiful state. It is time to gaze at the colors ablaze on the hillsides, walk along a mountain stream, listen to water gurgling against the rocks, and breathe in the fresh air. It’s time to stock the freezer with trout and get the gear ready for hunting that big buck. It is time to pick apples and pears from the fruit-laden trees, can the veggies from the gardens, and pile up wood for the stove. Autumn in WV is time to appreciate all the wonder, beauty and resources our state has to offer.
Here in West Virginia, we work hard and play hard. We love our families. We love our God. We are proud of our guys and gals that work to keep the lights on in other parts of the country. We love our lumber workers, coal miners and gas field laborers who set off five or six days a week for a job that at any moment can take a life or limb. We love the artists and crafters, musicians and story-tellers that document the rich beauty and struggle of West Virginia. We love the teachers that impart this respect for West Virginia to our kids. We are deeply attached to the culture and way of life that prevails in this wild and wonderful land.
The record of amazing and wonderful things about West Virginia is long. Take a moment to list many of them, and your mind feels like a travel and tourism magazine, a John Denver song, a history journal, and a Cynthia Rylant book all in one. West Virginians are proud of our great state, and, by God, we show our pride by being friendly. People that come here from other places comment on the generosity of the folks from West Virginia. In times of trouble, we take care of our own, and we are kind to newcomers.
And yet, this bright light shimmering from the heart of West Virginia is overshadowed by horrible economics and divisive politics that drive us down to the bottom of every list of good things imaginable. We all want something better for our state.
We are at a crossroads. We have the choice to continue allowing the Big Money people to come in and take advantage of the hard work, dedication, and true grit we have here. Or we can begin to take up for ourselves and tell those who are putting profits over people that enough is enough. Since the beginning of West Virginia, we have wanted better. We want freedom to own our land, and work it the way we see fit. We want a better future for our families, so our kids are motivated to stay here. We want fair and safe conditions for our workers. We want roads that don’t break our cars. We want excellent schools for our kids. We want clean water and blue skies and fresh air. We want to love our neighbors and be kind to one another. We want to hold the beauty and rich heritage of West Virginia close to our hearts.
In times of division, West Virginians have always come together. If Virginia is for lovers, West Virginians are for the deeply committed true love that comes from living through tragic heartbreak and struggle. Love and compassion compose the resilient thread that join the pieces of the West Virginia quilt. We can lift each other up in these times of trouble and make a better life.
Look at the politicians who don’t seem to care about your sister with disabilities, or your neighbor who works two jobs but can’t pay the bills. Look at the pharmaceutical industry that poured millions of pills into our tiny communities driving addiction into the headlights of our pain. Look at the extraction-industry barons that suck the energy right out from under our feet and leave our workers in the dark when the boom has busted. That past has given us nothing.
Let’s show our love for our great state by changing our expectations. Let’s stand up together for a better future. We can have renewable energy sources that create jobs. We can support small businesses that strengthen our economy. We can promote tourism by preserving our beautiful lands and waters. We can keep our communities safe by showing the true love and commitment that makes our state great.
This fall in West Virginia, show your love. Take the sappy advice from Todd Rundgren’s song “Love is the Answer.” “And when you feel afraid, love one another. When you’ve lost your way, love one another. Light of the world, you got to shine, shine on us all. Know that love can save the day. Love is the answer.” After all, what is more important in this life than love?