Dear West Virginia,
First, I would like to start this letter out to you by saying, “I love you.” I love your beautiful scenery as well as the rich history that you have provided for me as a young boy growing up here. I love the people that live within you. The respect and selflessness within the people of your great state is unlike any other in the entire world. You have provided for me my entire life. You have provided my family, my friends, and complete strangers, which I have yet to meet, a life that some in this world would certainly die for.
I understand that as a state, you have been raped and pillaged throughout your lifetime. We learned that our past has not always been the brightest. We learned about the coal miners that were paid in scrip and were forced to spend their wages at company stores. We learned about the development of unions and the voice that they provided for the feeble and weak that once went unheard. We learned of uprisings that had taken place to stand up for what was right and believed in. We, as a state, have learned to never back down and to come together for what we believe in. We have gone through more turmoil and hurt than any other state. Still, in today’s society, we are looked at as a minority. We are looked down upon, judged, and thought of as uneducated, lazy, and incompetent, but what people do not see is what is on the inside of the great people that live within your borders. It’s the little things that go unnoticed. The care and love that we have for our fellow West Virginians will only be noticed by the people that experience this love and care. We have always taken care of our own people and looked for the best interests in each other here, and we will continue to do so.
As a teacher within your boundaries, I can tell you that times are tough for me as well as my brothers and sisters within education. Sadly, teachers are not the only ones that are feeling this tough time as other workers that are important in making you run are as well. Throughout all of that, though, I still believe. I still believe that one day we, as state workers, will be given what we deserve. I believe that people will see the value in us just as we see the value in each and every one of our students that walk through our classroom doors. I have seen a reoccurring theme throughout the past weeks. A reoccurring theme of finger pointing and blaming. I wholeheartedly feel that this is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. I believe that this is a people issue. I believe that it is a moral issue. I believe that everyone knows that there is a problem within you, but I do not believe that we are willing to come together, as a government, to fix or heal your broken bones. I do believe; however, that the great people of this state are ready to come together.
You see, as teachers we are always on the lookout for our students’ best interests. We provide them the necessary tools to not only be successful in the classroom but to be successful in life as well. Life lessons are taught in my classroom daily. I tell my students that I genuinely love them and care for them weekly because not all of my students have the luxury of love within the confines of their own homes. Many come from broken families. Many live with relatives that were willing to take them in when times were rough. Many go home to raise a younger sibling and try to scrape by because mom and dad are nowhere to be found. Many perceive school as a place to escape abuse, violence, drugs, and negative people with negative lifestyles. Please, call us anything you want. Glorified babysitters seems to be the term that people love to use. I will accept that role willingly, but I will only accept it if you pay me like one. Give me the pay babysitters earn. Give our bus drivers, state road workers, social workers, police officers, and the many other jobs that make you run like a well-oiled machine the payment of a babysitter. That twenty dollars an hour goes much further than what our wages carry us to now. I need not complain about my late hours after my eight-hour work day because I love what I do. I don’t need sympathy, empathy, or a pat on the back because it is what I do.
Even in the midst of strikes, rallies, and corrupt government I cannot help but to think of what Fred Rogers once said. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Throughout the past few weeks I have witnessed more helpers than what I could imagine. I have received texts showing support as well as seeing it on almost every social media site. I see service personnel, teachers, and other state employees banding together for not only the betterment of us, but for the betterment of our children and you, the state of West Virginia. We, as people in your great state, are invested. Many of us, including my young self, are prepared to spend the rest of our lives here with you. We are prepared to dig our roots in the ground to remain calling you our home. We are ready to have families that will one day enjoy the beauty and hospitality that you provide us daily. Throughout all darkness there is always a light. Your beauty and the people that live here are the light at the end of this dark time.
Cody Greathouse is an English teacher with Point Pleasant Junior / Senior High School and an assistant varsity boys’ basketball coach.