Rhodell, West Virginia – a place I’d never heard of prior to standing in front of the alternating colors of the post office’s awning. Why would I have? It isn’t a pass-through on a way to a bigger town. It isn’t famous for anything. No, it’s just a little tucked away place where normal people live their lives.
Normal people, doing normal things.
While I was taking a photo, a young woman came out of the house to receive a little boy getting off of the school bus. When the bus pulled up, a young man also came out of the house to see that same little boy off the bus.
Instantaneously, I’d made a judgment as to why two young adults were home in the middle of the afternoon based on the realities of my own existence.
But – maybe one was a stay at home parent and maybe the other had time off work. Or maybe one was on vacation, on sick leave, worked nights, cared for a sick relative, or it was their regular day off. Maybe one of them hadn’t started their shift yet. After all, I myself was there in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. The reasons two parents were home in the middle of the day, during what you’d call 9-5 work hours were myriad.
And yet… based on what I’d passed on my way through that burned out and vacant town, I assumed something else. At least one of them might be out of work.
Out of work. That was a real possibility. Where would they work, anyway? Where are the jobs in that little pocket of the world? Of course, I have no idea what the truth of their lives is. I was just some opinionated asshole passing through town, making assumptions.
Later that evening I wrote some notes in my travel journal about what I’d seen throughout the day. “Poverty isn’t a tourist attraction, and yet I feel as if I cannot tear my eyes away.” I feel this so strongly.
Seeing poverty firsthand leaves me with a sense of helplessness. There is a chaos that stirs inside of me and it’s like I just want to “fix” everything, help everyone, give them a place to work… and I can’t.
I look at my life and my surroundings and become desensitized to them. This place where I live becomes reality. Everyone, everywhere lives in this comfort, right? Wrong. And in the wide arc of my own life from childhood to now, I should know this. But, how quickly we forget when lulled by our own good fortune.
Rhodell, West Virginia
The median income for a household in the town was $17,143, and the median income for a family was $19,167. Males had a median income of $17,750 versus $18,750 for females. The per capita income for the town was $7,582.
– Source: Wikipedia