Image courtesy www.tchliteracy.com.
"A train comes through Appalachia each year at Christmas time. And though it doesn't have antlers, nor does the man standing on its rear platform have a long white beard, it may as well be Santa and his sleigh for all the excitement it stirs up." (Silver Packages: An Appalachian Story, excerpt)
And so begins the story of a rich man who had an accident in the Applachians years ago and was cared for by a kind stranger. In order to show his appreciation, the rich man returns every year on December 23 on a train loaded with silver packages. Standing on the caboose, he throws the gifts to the eager girls and boys, many of whom come from very poor families in coal country. One boy named Frankie longs for a doctor's kit, but always gets socks or mittens along with a small toy. Frankie grows up and goes away to college to study medicine. One day he returns to the town to live and work as a doctor, his dream come true.
The paintings, by Christ K. Soentpiet, are beautiful renditions of the Appalachians and the people who inhabit them. Loosely based on true events, this story reminds us that even in America, there are poor people. It also reminds us that if we set our mind to it, we can do anything, just as little Frankie did. Finally, it shows how it is more important to be rich in spirit rather than in the pocketbook, as demonstrated by the man who returns every year on the Christmas train, bearing silver packages for the children.
Image courtesy chapelofhopestories.files.wordpress.com.