Breaking Stereotypes

Christian called yesterday from town. He had just eaten a big Southern meal of all-you-can-eat-fried chicken, potatoes, and green beans “done right”. A self-described “recovering vegetarian”, he was a herbivore for several years before coming back to “the dark side”.  When challenged to express his life in 5 words during a sermon series, Pastor Jon Weece said “Love my wife, love bacon”.  My husband wholeheartedly agrees.

We have many vegan friends who prepare yummy meals and we eat meat only about twice a week, but he has never met a piece of fried chicken he didn’t like.  But, his Achilles heel is my mom’s Southern green beans that take several hours to make and are flavored with meat. The first time he tasted them he had four helpings.  She asked “He is so fit, where is he putting all of this food?’.  When he finally pushed back from the table that day, he exclaimed “Your green beans are not a vegetable, they are a carrier for meat, and I love them!”. So, when Christian speaks of green beans “done right”, this is what he means.

When his meal was over yesterday, his stomach hurt.  Unaccustomed to anything but trail food now, the meal was certainly a shock to his system.  But, he was happy and well.  His only real complaint is with himself.  He wants to do more than his top speed which has been just over 11 miles for a day.  With the brain injury, it takes him a little longer to prepare than most.  He packs methodically, with a routine in mind so that he does not forget anything.  He studies the map to be sure he stays on the right path.  Apparently, many of the markers cannot be seen so he has had to rely on the maps. And, being a creature of habit he is not content to eat a power bar for breakfast and start walking in the dark.  Instead, he waits until dawn and cooks his breakfast before setting off.  Most of the other campers have gone by then.

Today’s entry needs a small bit of background.  We do not talk about it too often because we don’t really think about it.  But, because Christian is white and I am black we have received some odd comments from a few of our white acquaintances that is quite frankly a little baffling.  I was at a ministry event with some Children’s Pastor friends of mine and my dear friend Katy introduced me to a new young Pastor.  He mentioned that he and his wife were in the process of adopting a baby from Uganda.  Well, of course I had to chat with him because Uganda is my heart.

As new acquaintances are want to do, the subject got around to our spouses.  I spoke of Christian’s occupation but also mentioned he was taking six months off to live his dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  There was a blank stare for a half of a second before the gentlemen talked about how cool that was and how he had hiked parts of it himself.  At that point Katy re-entered the conversation and we talked about the time Christian was missing for several hours in Uganda and the whole “Muzungu” story.  The new Pastor guy looks at me and says “Oh, he’s white?  That explains the whole Appalachian Trail thing”. Imagine my shock when I had to explain to this young man that indeed black people do hike.  A little less gracefully, I added “contrary to popular belief we ski, play golf, and pretty much enjoy many of the same things you do”.

I admit, I did not have a very Christ-like attitude at that moment. I was furious that this family was adopting a black child and could carry these ridiculous stereotypes. I can only pray that they do not reinforce these things on their child.   I know it sounds ludicrous but, people make these kinds of statements to Christian and I separately on a regular basis. They typically mean no harm, but they expose a level of ignorance that we attempt to correct anytime we get a chance.  So, to that end…I give you his latest entry.

Hawk Shelter 3/15/2012  11:13 AM

A morning after the worst night’s sleep yet, my first time ever staying in a shelter and potentially my last. A loud party, inconsiderate light users, early risers, and that reverberating echo.  I have woken up “a little grumpy” as my wife would say. Last night was not a pleasant experience.  And to think, it’s too early for bugs and we were lucky that there were no mice in this shelter.

After getting breakfast started my mood improved but, I was still exhausted from my lack of a good night’s sleep.  I struck up a conversation with some really nice guys who were having their breakfast too.  We spent some time commiserating about the loud party and the flashlights at two in the morning.  As we ate together we settled into an ease and talked about how many miles we planned to try for today.  

I tested the waters about asking them a question.  They were congenial and the water seemed fine.  So, I explained the stereotypes my wife and I had encountered regarding the trail.  And then, I unabashedly asked “Would y’all mind if I get a picture to prove them wrong?”.


They were all for it and posed with big smiles.  They too,  had experienced similar expressions of ignorance.  

Later on in the day, I met one of them on the trail again.  He told me that they were here on the AT separately and had just met at our camp.  They hadn’t even known one another until we all had breakfast together.  This should not surprise anyone.  The world does not belong to any one of us. It has been left to our care together, and we have to work together to make sure we keep it from unnecessary harm.

This is just another example of why what is happening to Appalachia is so wrong. The drinking water and air of people we have never met is being polluted and they are dying. To the coal companies, these people are nameless and faceless.  But, to me they are my neighbors.  I may not live where they do or experience what they experience, but, we are neighbors and I will fight for them as I fight for my own family.  I choose to raise awareness as their land is being ravaged and they are being murdered for profit.  I challenge you to read up on mountain top removal and fracking.  Educate yourselves before all of the beauty I am experiencing is lost to us all.

Christian Torp

Today’s donation total rose to $2,290. We still need $2,710. Thank you to those who have supported us. Please mail donations to: Christian Torp, P.O. Box 861, Lexington, Ky. 40588.

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7 Responses to Breaking Stereotypes

  1. Bob Footprints Crawford says:

    Parts of Pennsylvania are experiencing fracking issues as well. Additionally big gas has no appreciation for the land where they are drilling wells. I have heard reports of large amount of fluids being dumped or leaked at well sites. Glad to hear Christian is doing well. No need to worry about the miles. They will come if he wants. And if not enjoy the journey and all that comes with it.

    • It is just so sad. We only have one world and it is not like the damage can be undone. Water is the number one commodity in this world and it will prove to be even more important as our resources dwindle. We are saddened that not many people know what is going on and aim to at least bring some awareness. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Not sure if anyone shared the site below with you. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a great site with an interactive map and a page with updates on issues on the trail that include changes to the trail and shelters, water problems, and bear problems. You might find it useful.

    • Yes. I have seen the site and it is great. Unfortunately, Christian can’t see it on the trail. But, he does experience a great deal of information sharing with other hikers he meets. We have a blog coming up about one day when he couldn’t find a water source which is completely dangerous for hikers as you well know. I find the site helpful to ease my mind as well! Thanks

  3. delasondas says:

    This is such a beautiful post, it made me tear up! Thank you so much for sharing. Tell Christian that I said hello as does the rest of the CKY chapter!

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