Hands Across the Hills

I just got off the phone with Gwen Johnson in Letcher County, Kentucky. Some of you may remember her joining online some Sundays this past year at the Village Church services. We met through Hands Across the Hills and have become lifelong friends.

Her area is hardest hit by the recent floods. At the Hemphill Community Center she is distributing help to people not helped by FEMA and the Red Cross.The teacher of the chi gong class that I attend here in Shelburne Falls, David Eade, donated all the fees he got this month to this work. 

Gwen Johnson received the money this week and turned it around to families already. The message she sent to the class just now is that she is very grateful and that money goes many places. She said people left their homes with nothing — many didn’t have on shoes. Shoes for people homeless, shoes for kids starting school, gas for 4 wheelers to drive supplies up the hollers, money for Tony at Hemphill who lost everything — this is where the money goes. She said the systemic problems the region had already came to the surface during this crisis, and became more apparent. Today a team of lawyers are at Hemphill where she runs the Black Sheep Bakery to help people who have been denied funds by FEMA write an appeal. Here’s the link where we contribute: https://blacksheepbrickoven.org/hemphill-community-center

This is a time of collaboration. At the Church on the Hill this Sunday, we could feel the strength of everyone there rooting for each other, caring for each other. When I wake up in the morning, I picture the webs of caring people extending out in the world. Penny Schultz, Josh Wachtel, Norma Jean Haynes and I sang a traditional song to start and end the Church on the Hill. This traditional song might very well have originated from Kentucky:

Left to right: Penny Schultz, Norma Jean Haynes, Josh Wachtel, Rev. Sarah Pirtle

“When my neighbor calls, I will answer. I’ll be somewhere listening for my name.”

September 17th in Leverett “Bands Across the Hills” will give a benefit concert that people can watch online or donate towards and it is for our Kentucky friends in Hands Across the Hills. I called Gwen this morning because I wrote a song for her to sing at that benefit along with Norma Jean, and I wanted to check out how she liked the words. 

The red bud trees held their leaves as the flood roared down the hollar.

Endless flood, endless mud cannot wash away tomorrow.

The chorus says: We’ll help heal this place, community is strong.

May you wake up in the morning and know whatever you are going through, that you are thought about and not alone.