Last week, Janet and I were in White Sulphur Springs, WV at the Greenbrier celebrating my birthday. As much as we love the resort, we have become very attached to the people of the area and have really learned about humility and serving each other from a front row seat.
Several years ago, in the summer of 2016, the people of the Greenbrier Valley suffered a devastating flood that resulted in the deaths of many people and the complete loss of material possessions for many other families in the area. Scores of people ran for their lives before everything they owned in the world was swept away in the currents ravaging the neighborhoods in White Sulphur Springs. It was the worst natural disaster to ever hit the area and was even called the “1000 year flood.”
Many local residents came together to provide money and other resources to help neighboring families get back on their feet. Everything from refrigerators and washing machines to clothes and food were donated in an effort to keep the area alive. A phrase, “West Virginia Strong” was written across buildings and became the battle cry for the next several years.
Anyway, we have heard wonderful stories of neighbors helping neighbors and the whole experience has made Janet and me more acutely aware of how important communities are when people invest in one another. So, as we have been embraced by the locals throughout the years, it didn’t come as a surprise when some of our friends there suggested that Janet and I go to “Jim’s Hot Dogs” to have the greatest dog in West Virginia for my birthday. After all, hot dogs are my favorite food and we were told that Jim’s was an institution in the Greenbrier Valley.
To be honest about it, we found the place, but Jim’s looked like a dive and if it hadn’t been suggested to us, we wouldn’t have even stopped. We arrived about 5:30 p.m. but found that they had closed 30 minutes earlier. We stuck around a few minutes to scope the place out and just as we were about to leave, I noticed a coat rack near the corner of the building, under an awning, with a hand written sign propped up along side it.
A simple poster said, “Need a coat? Take a coat… Have a coat? Leave a coat…” Wow. Out in the middle of nowhere, at a fifty year old hot dog stand, the most important thing in the world was making sure that neighbors continued taking care of neighbors – West Virginia Strong! And the rack was full of coats – all colors and sizes – and it was clear that there would be no trouble restocking when more coats were needed. Almost everywhere we went, people were pleased to know that their extra gear could be used at Jim’s… no selfishness, no desire to sell their coats, just love for one another – having survived one of the worst disasters in our history.
We didn’t get our hot dogs that evening, but we received something much more important – a real lesson on what loyalty, commitment and living life together really looks like. And it was great!
James, the disciple and half brother of Jesus, reminds us that while faith is important, deeds and actions are necessary to really help one another. He tells us, in James 2:15-18, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
My encouragement tonight is that God wants us to live as a community of believers who promote action and care for each other. My prayer is that we can all remember the lessons of West Virginia and rush to the aid of one another whenever the need arises – living as a God centered community where actions speak louder than words and love rules the day! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…