When I was in High School, one of my assignments was to perform community
charity. My teacher hooked me up with the President of “The Appalachian Club” at the local
college. I was allowed to join the club on several weekend trips into eastern Kentucky to an
impoverished area that a coal mine company had abondoned years prior.
As a seventeen year old, young man from an upper middle class community, I was astonished
to discover so much poverty and suffering right here in the United States. People were living
in shacks, with no electricity, no plumbing, heated by a coal burning, pot belly
stove. There was no High School and most kids my age were already married with kids.
Most families had at least one child with a mental handicap.
We went around a few communities, checking on people the Club had befriended. We
visited an old folk’s home; checked in on an Arts and Crafts Center the Club had donated
money to; and, helped a woman move from a shack she could no longer pay the rent for
into an abandoned school bus left on the side of the road.
It was a confusing trip for me because on the one hand I was having a blast being with
these college kids, away from home and having fun; but on the other hand, I was confronted
with a foreign lifestyle of pain, suffering, destitution, ignorance and fear. It was an
education and an adventure all in one.
On the last night of our trip we travelled to a nearby town having an Apple Harvest
celebration. There was a band playing music for a community, barnyard square dance with
over a hundred people participating in each dance. I was one of four guys in the group with
six girls so I was busy all night long. Each dance lasted over a half an hour as you and your
partner travelled in opposite directions around the circle of dancers, doing what the singer
called out with the other dancers until you finally met up again with your partner. I had a
The town had only one record that they played over and over several times between each
square dance to give the band a break. So now, every time I hear the song, “Kung Fu
Fighting”, I am taken back to that place in time and in my mind, when a very lucky young
man, with a very easy upbringing, learned that not everyone had it so good and that you
didn’t have to go to third world countries to find poverty - we have it right here in our own
(I know it's a stretch, but this is for the Kung Fu theme.)