As you’re already aware, during late Friday and into the early morning hours of Saturday, tornadoes tore through and inflicted many deaths, suffering, and devastation to our neighbors in some of the western counties of Kentucky, as well as parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.

The following is part and parcel of a column I wrote a few months ago that, I hope, best exemplifies who we Appalachians are not, but rather, who we really are when our neighbors are hurting and in desperate need of help.

With a few minor adjustments to make it a little more relevant to this past weekend’s tragedy, and with your indulgence, I’d like to use it again this week because, well, it’s very much appropriate and I really think worth the reminder:

Though not as commonly as in years past, too many people living outside of Appalachia still choose to view us as unintelligent and unrefined bumpkins who wouldn’t know how to come in out of the weather unless given instructions by the much smarter family dog on just how to do it.

But I’m not going to spend a lot of time elaborating on all the negative things we aren’t.

What I am going to do is briefly point out the primary reason why I’ve always believed these stereotypes go on and on, in spite of our best efforts to delegitimize them, and then I’m going to expound a little more at length on who we really are.

Generally these less than complimentary images of us are maintained year after year, generation after generation, essentially because of a certain family feud that occurred here more than a century ago.

But the reality is, unless you’ve spent your entire life on one of our large mountains residing inside an old cave or worked-out coal mine, you probably already know there’s far more to us than what meets the prejudiced eye.

For a good instance, you already know how the people of Appalachia waste not even a second to show the world just what kind of people actually live therein and ultimately what we’re all about, particularly in times of disaster.

Anytime one neighbor is injured, we’re all injured. Anytime one neighbor suffers we all suffer. Anytime one neighbor needs help we all unhesitatingly jump into the fray and help.

If untold numbers of Eastern Kentuckians and southern West Virginians are not already onsite in these hardest hit areas, as we speak they are least cramming full truckloads of relief in the form of food, clothing, and cleanup supplies to help in the recovery effort.

The reality is we have always been caring people who even in trying times such as this still value and cherish the well being of our neighbors, and do so whether those neighbors live next door or even in distant states.

It doesn’t matter what we may already be dealing with personally. We Appalachians simply load up every box of food, every jug of Clorox, mop, broom and shovel we can pack into our car or truck and then head out to provide help and comfort to as many as we can just as fast as we can.

Most certainly people living in other parts of the country perform similar benevolent acts whenever things like this occur, and no doubt will offer what help they can in this instance, and do regardless of where, how, or why they occur.

Generally, Americans from all walks of life care and certainly likewise come to tornado devastated communities like Mayfield in large numbers offering up every form of help imaginable. That’s just the American way.

But somehow Appalachian people do it differently because we seem to regard the lives of others as much as we do our own, whether these others are our neighbors in Mingo and neighboring counties or people we don’t even know living in more far-removed areas like those in western Kentucky and the other communities who suffered untold devastation this past weekend.

That’s just who we are and who we’ve always been.

Not uneducated backwoods hillbillies we’re so frequently and unfortunately depicted as being, but rather, primarily hardworking and compassionate people who are never more than a simple need or a desperate cry for help away.

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