By ROGER HORTON, president

United Citizens for Coal

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle10563222_674533305964419_4503646227473895732_n to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all,”  Ecclesiastes 9:11.

Sometimes we all get depressed. It’s hard not to when you look around and see the pain the past seven years has brought to our people and our region.  I don’t know how many of you know it, but I am a retiree from Patriot and like many of you, I am looking at the loss of my pension and my health care. This pain is very real to me as it is to you.

I am angry. The sad thing is that it is getting to the point that I can’t remember not being angry – not being worried about the future – not being tired.

Yes, I am tired. And I know that you are tired of fighting. I see it when we hold meetings that used to draw hundreds that now draw a couple of dozen. I see it in the faces I meet on the streets of Logan and Williamson and Man. I have watched grey hair and wrinkles take over familiar faces – including my own.

And when I am tired, worried and angry I have learned that there is solace to be found in the Bible. Earlier today, I was reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes and I saw the verse I included above. I have read it countless times but today it stood out.

“… The race is not to the swift,” the Preacher wrote.

Over the past few years, I know we have all at one point or another turned our eyes to heaven and asked why. Why is this happening to us? Why after I have given my life, my hard work and my health to make a good life for my family, is all of it being taken away? What can I do that I haven’t been doing?

The answer is found in the words above…

We just have to keep fighting. We have to get up and start taking the fight to those who are hurting us. They say God helps those who help themselves. We have to get up off the floor, shake ourselves off and get back in the ring.

And in the meantime, while we keep fighting, we have to begin LIVING again. We have to start reaching out to each other, helping each other, getting involved in our communities and working … working to make our communities just a little better. And if we do that we can make our communities and our lives just a little bit better tomorrow, and a little better the next day … and the next.

We can’t sit back and wait for someone to come and drop a Toyota Plant into our laps. We have to do what we can to build our own communities and address the problems that are all around us – the drug abuse, the petty theft, the prostitution….

We can clean up our communities. We can reach out to neighbors who are struggling and if nothing else let them know they aren’t alone.

We are starting Project Coalfields 2030. We are working to begin the process of turning our communities around. I’m not going to promise you that things will change overnight, but if we work together things WILL change. We WILL make a difference and things WILL get better.  And that’s what we all want.

We are also asking you to please come to the Charleston Civic Center on September 17th and attend the OSM’s hearing on the new Stream Buffer Zone Rule. This threatens to kill what surface mining remains in southern West Virginia and even threatens our underground operations. We need you.

Remember, “the race is not to the swift.”