Focus on the Good

By Hannah Trautwein, Partnership Coordinator

As someone who relocated to West Virginia and did not grow up here, it’s always been interesting for me to hear what outsiders think of the State.

For me, I didn’t really come here with preconceived expectations. I’m not sure where I thought I was spending my summer back in 2013, but I was surprised by what I found.

Most people would assume that I was surprised by stereotypical descriptions of rural Appalachia: people are in poverty, they live in the middle of nowhere, and this place needs a lot of help.
But in reality, I was more surprised by the people themselves. How welcoming they were, how appreciative they were, and how much I had in common with them.

Years after that first summer in West Virginia, I learned about the CCDA, or Christian Community Development Association and how they encourage Community Developers to focus on listening to the community they are working in. As outsiders, we need to make sure we are listening to the residences of communities and hearing their dreams, ideas, and thoughts.

They also say it’s important not to focus on the weaknesses or needs of a community.
When you go into a community this summer, I would challenge you to choose to speak about the good in the community instead of focusing on weaknesses or challenges that community faces. While the community may offer their idea of the needs they face, it’s important for us to be good listeners in this process and hear what the community has to say for themselves instead of pointing out all the things we see as wrong.

“The priority is the thoughts and dreams of the community itself.
What the people themselves believe should be the focus.”

This is so important for you as volunteers to put into practice. For instance, when you enter a home this summer, will you comment on the porch steps in need of repair, or will you instead ask to sit on the porch swing with them and hear about their life?

In Clendenin specifically, we can choose to look at the river as the cause of a challenging flood and leave our focus there and live in fear of future flooding, or we can look at the future of tourism activities like kayaking and tubing as a source of economic development for those who live among the river.

I challenge you, whatever community you find yourself in this summer (maybe in your own!) to focus on the assets that each of us have, and be quick to point out the good instead of the bad.

Next Step Ministries