Because I write about difficult subjects such as poverty, hunger and homelessness, some people accuse me of being too negative, of leaving no room for hope. I’m not trying to depress anyone. Still, things are really bad in West Virginia, and what we need to do is act even if it means joining in something as prosaic, you might say, as putting in a new public park for your kids in your neighborhood.
I don’t traffic in hope. Realism is more my ministry than unbridled optimism. Hope allows us to leave what is possible in the hands of others. And now, more than ever, as we consider the state of our state, we don’t need to leave possibility to others. So much of what is possible is, in fact, in our hands.
If you want me to offer assurances that though we are facing many challenges, everything will be OK, you have come to the wrong person. And I’m not the only one. Some passionate people in my local community, sick and tired of seeing young people succumb to illicit drugs and hopelessness and watching their youth surrender to teen pregnancy and joblessness, are acting.
To the cynics, the action by the Alum Creek Lions Club to simply build a park for preteens in the backyard of the club’s community center may seem naïve and insufficient to combat the daunting problems that afflict us. But they would be wrong.
Funded by a generous $35,000 grant from The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Lions Discovery Park is expected to attract thousands of kids in Lincoln and Kanawha counties who may be idle and faced with the danger to which such idleness may expose them.
A mission statement authored by the park’s creators stresses the promotion of a child’s health and education in a natural setting. To fulfill the mission, scores of citizens from the local community are volunteering their time, talent and resources. For example, Lions Club member Tim Bell has donated $20,000 in playground equipment. Retired Alum Creek physician, Loren Smith, is spearheading the project using his broad experience in caring for and healing tens of thousands of folks in our area. And through the Carpenter’s Union Apprentice Program of Charleston, young people in the program’s master carpentry coterie are assembling a part of the park.
Designed by David Hill, president of Three Trees Design of Charleston, the park, now under construction, will be composed of an open play area, a climbing wall, a relax and read area, a music/movement sector with a lighted stage for lyrical performances, educational presentations and many other productions.
More than anything else, Lions Discovery Park is a choice. It is a choice by local people not to simply hope things will get better. For them, hope is too ineffable and far too elusive. For the better, they have chosen to act.