Tuesday, January 3, 2017

J.D. Vance--Teacher

I have been hearing about J.D. Vance's book for weeks. It has climbed to the top of the best seller lists. I wondered why the book has caused quite a stir. A book about hillbillies?

I thought it might be some sociological study. Some clues to why Hillary did not get elected. Not so. The book is the story of one man's life. And the book is good and provocative and heart-warming.

Vance grew up, like so many of us, without a great many advantages. His family was a mess. Did not know his father, his mother had a stream of live-ins. She also battled alcohol and drugs. He found safety and encouragement from his Grandmother, Me-Maw particularly. She may have cussed like a sailor but she believed in family and J.D. in particular.

She helped save his life. Not having many chances at education he joined the Marines, got out went to Ohio State--did well--and wound up in Yale Law School.

Vance does not look back on his conscripted past with disdain. He appreciates his family. He has come to value the experiences in their lives that kept them--and him--going. In many different ways he tells his audience not to look down on people--any people. Try to understand. Give them a break.

Whatever hard times Vance had to endure and escape--he has come to forgive his family that had so little and to value the things of their lives that were important. In today's world that worships money and success J.D. Vance is a fine teacher. Families matter. All families. Forget the labels like Hillbillies or poor or disadvantaged or broken homes or any other terms we try to diminish people with.

J.D. Vance lets us know there is strength and hope in these hillbillies. Me Maw was the key to her Grandson's success. She was always there. She held him accountable. She helped him continue to dream dreams against seemingly impossible odds. She--and many others--saved his life.

What this book taught me is that what we all do matters. That we can help everybody along the way. The world is a better place when somebody listens, loves and cares. Instead of writing others off--how much better to believe, despite the odds, in everyone.

We're in a mess today. Yet--the old words may still be the best after all. Love. Care. Commitment. And that old word that keeps us all going: hope. I recommend this book as a good start for the new year.

(You might want to read Vance's article on "Barack Obama and Me" in this week's New York Times. The author is no Democrat but he writes about his appreciation for our outgoing President.)

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

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