Here's what I think
What is our problem?
So much of our recent public conversation has been about the value of people "born here" as opposed to those who "came here."
West Virginians have good reason to be wary of people who arrive in the mountains with what appears to be lots of money and lots of ideas. In days past, some of those people ravaged our mountains for coal and timber, left us poor and virtually homeless and, as a result, pretty darned skeptical of why people want to be here. That's part of our story, our history, our community DNA.
But that is not why everyone comes here to live. Some people come here for the very reasons those of us who were born here stayed.
Indulge me for a bit as I take Pocahontas County to a place in time when only "born heres" lived here.
First of all, NRAO is not in Green Bank, and Snowshoe Mountain Resort is not on Cheat Mountain. How many "born heres" work in those places? Doesn't matter. "Come heres" run them. Pocahontas Memorial Hospital? No administrator, although some pretty fine staff people in that office. More than half the board of directors-gone. Doctors? Maybe two. Attorneys? Three. Principals? One. Teachers? A few. Ministers? A couple. Car dealerships? One. No Mitchell Chevrolet. Those guys were born in North Carolina. The staff of The Pocahontas Times is cut in half. No WVMR. No Farmers Market. No Opera House. No Beckwith Lumber.
See what I mean? No one can tell me that Joe Mitchell or Sam Mitchell or Ralph Beckwith are not from here. Not to mention Dr. Bob Must, who was instrumental in getting PMH back on track. I know he was not alone in that effort, but he's the optimist who digs and burrows until he finds a way to make things work. We need more people like him, not fewer.
Let's get real. Without the efforts of all of us who live here, Pocahontas County is headed for failure. If all of us "born heres" were so cohesive a group, surely the local economy would be doing better. We'd all buy cars from Sheets Garage and Mitchell Chevrolet. We'd buy groceries at Foodland and Fas-Chek and Henry's, appliances and furniture at Richardson's and J and P, instead of hitting the road to some big box store and then proudly proclaiming what we've "saved" instead of understanding what we're destroying-those local businesses that we expect to donate to 4-H and soccer and school events. The people who own local businesses are a pretty community-minded bunch; they make donations in spite of where we shop.
Did you ever drive up to Mitchell Chevrolet in a car purchased outside the county and ask for a donation to something? Shame on you.
If you want to be proud of being born here, good for you. So am I. But I'm proud-and lucky-to have some of the people who came here be part of my life. I've learned from them, benefitted from their knowledge personally and professionally and enjoyed their company on many occasions.
But make no mistake, I don't like it when Pocahontas County people are insulted, either. People who have come here should look past what they perceive as a lack of education and understand what we've had to learn to survive here for generations. Have some respect for the knowledge we've gained about planting and harvesting, about wildlife and timber, about floods and droughts. You might need some of that sometime while you're here.
I think it's wrong to divide Pocahontas County people into categories. That sets us up for ill will and ultimate failure. We are a community. Community. The word ends with "unity."
We have our differences, that's for sure. But loving Pocahontas County isn't a native's privilege. Some people who came here love it just as much as we do, some of them maybe more because they've seen what a mess it is in other places.
So that's our problem. Here's our solution.
Let's give each other some credit. If you moved here, give us natives some credit for being smart enough not to leave. If you were born here, give those people who chose this as their home credit for being smart enough to understand that Pocahontas County is a special place.
In the end, it shouldn't matter where you were born. If you're living in Pocahontas County now, it's time to start our conversations with mutual respect.