September 21, Day 81 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014
Today, we met a genius and a budding preacher. That’s two people in case you are wondering.
Peer Counseling at a Ripe Young Age
Church is always where we like to be on Sunday morning, and today was no different. Pastor Tim invited us up front at the Cloverport Community Church to explain about TheHopeLine. We shared the mission and later received the typical reactions and responses about people in crisis in the local community. Everyone is affected by youth issues and, in particular these days, youth suicide.
We were touched by a spirited sermon about how worry and anxiety have become such prevalent causes of sickness and malaise. The solution? The age-old one: knowing God and allowing Him to bear one’s burdens. That is always reassuring to hear and ponder, but we were really moved by the words of a budding preacher just after the service.
When a 12-year-old boy must counsel his peers on suicide prevention, something in our society has gone woefully wrong. JR’s younger brother, Peyton, is ten. They’ve obviously had an upbringing that many others do not enjoy. Perhaps we’ve discovered the secret to the warmth and kindness we’ve experienced thus far in Kentucky.
It’s not often that you can talk to a genius, but we did so in a small Kentucky town that didn’t even make our bicycling map. Most towns, and in some cases even intersections with a few buildings, make our bicycle maps as a named town, so that’s saying something.
We had left church in Cloverport, where we stayed the night, and rode along route 144 and the Ohio River. This was a beautiful day, the ones you’ll remember after the tour is over. It will be remembered for its fantastic weather, tailwind, and carefree pace. Nothing was wrong in our world. Even the long gradual up-hills were a breeze.
After about twenty miles, we stopped at a strategic intersection for “lunch.” The site was strategic because we found a telephone pole against which to prop our heavily loaded bicycles. You don’t find those just anywhere on these rural roads. It was also strategic, as we found out, because it introduced us to Chance.
As we munched on our peanut-butter-covered bagels and bananas, we heard, “Hi, how’s it going?”
The sound almost startled us. We turned around and saw a boy in our midst. Debbie inquired for the details. He was named Chance and he was a 13-year-old eighth grader.
After hearing that he had read all but two of John Steinbeck’s books, that the Kentucky legislature had just passed a law prohibiting those under 16 to work in tobacco fields, and that he aspired to travel the country and attend Washington University in St. Louis, we knew we had met someone special. He even explained that we were about to enter the Eastern time zone, or go from “slow time” to “fast time” as the natives like to say. This wasn’t a nerdy bookworm, Chance was also playing on the junior varsity baseball team as a catcher and he had planted his own garden. In fact, he asked several times if there was anything he could do for us, and if he could share some beans or tomatoes from his garden. Debbie eventually took him up on the beans.
We asked Chance about his peers. He explained that the county was a poor one, and that the troubled youth seemed to come from the more impoverished areas in some of the small county towns. He seemed to have an interesting response at every turn, and was a wealth of local information.
Debbie and I left our time with Chance somewhat astonished at the maturity and potential at his young age. His conversation was more engaging and rich, with its relevant details and astute observations, than many twice his age. As we thought back to JR and Peyton, we felt that the future is bright for Kentucky. Let’s hope we experience a few more Chance encounters along the way.