The Misery Index
According to the researchers who check the pulse of America, I live in the most miserable state in the nation.
West Virginia recently topped the ratings for the sixth consecutive year, dragged down by such factors as poor well-being, motivation, finances, safety, and health. Kentucky and Ohio, the two states bordering the area where I live, also ranked in the top (or bottom) five.
About now I can hear echoes of the late Paul Harvey, saying, “And now, for the rest of the story…”
The visit partially stemmed from Chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution mini-series, which sparked a healthy eating renaissance. It continues despite setbacks in the obesity battle.
I interviewed the consultant while working on Winning the Food Fight, the book that emerged from Steve Willis’ appearance on a pair of episodes of Oliver’s show.
The consultant reminisced about the numerous pleasant conversations he enjoyed traveling around the area. His favorite experience came the evening he drove through the country south of the city. Suddenly he skidded off the road in his rental car.
While the vehicle didn’t incur any damage, it sat far enough off the road and down a slight incline that driving back onto the highway appeared to be the impossible dream.
Help is on the Way
Suddenly an old guy driving a pick-up truck appeared with a sturdy rope, tied it to the car’s bumper and unceremoniously pulled the stranded visitor back to level ground. Then, without asking for a dime, he smiled, “Have a good day” and drove down the road.
“I miss that,” the consultant said with a sigh before he repeated, “I miss that.”
I know how he feels. Though it’s been years ago, I had a problem with apparent overheating on my car one day as I stopped at a country grocery store.
Raising the hood, I watched as the steam from anti-freeze wafted skyward, having no idea what was wrong or how to fix it (my skill being in writing, not mechanics).
As I silently bemoaned this interruption in life, a man walked over. After looking at the cloud, he said, “It’s your hose.” Pulling out a knife as he removed the clamp, he cut away the damaged portion and reattached the now-workable hose.
He too said, “Have a nice day” and walked away without asking for anything.
Such stories only begin to explain the down-to-earth, friendly demeanor of so many people in the area where West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio meet.
Another example comes from a member of our weekly men’s group.
One time, he talked about coping with his wife’s death from cancer a couple years ago. He described gaining considerable strength from various friends and church members who supported him in the months after her death.
Recalling how two of his sons asked him why he didn’t move to a larger, more cosmopolitan area, he said with a smile, “I think I’ve got it pretty good here.”
Too often we fail to appreciate the intangibles—the qualities and joys of every-day life that people from other areas would pay dearly to know. So while others call us miserable, I will continue feeling otherwise.