Resource Shift

Listening to the Branham family describe how they’ve been affected by Mackie’s black lung is heart-wrenching. Our profile of the Branhams and the NPR investigation of black lung cases have gotten a lot attention, and in many cases I’ve seen the stories shared on social media with a warning that they’re likely to make you cry. Indeed, many people have told me that they were brought to tears by the powerful way the Branhams describe their situation.

There’s a chart that’s often taught in psychology classes. It shows that when you learn of something really unpleasant, you’re likely to either be upset or sad. If you’re upset, you’re more likely to do something about it.

Emotional responses and how likely we are to take action. Gary Wolf

Emotional responses and how likely we are to take action.

Psychologists would say that you’ve got “higher activation” —  you have more energy and are pushed toward action. Sadness, on the other hand, comes with lower activation —   less energy, and less of a push toward changing whatever it is that’s bothering you.

Given the number of tears we’ve heard about, it seems a lot of people hear the story, and feel like there’s nothing they can do. But some people have taken the step of turning their unpleasant feelings into action. Many listeners have contacted us, asking how they can send a gift or donation to the Branhams to help their situation and make sure their kids will get Christmas presents. I reached out the Branhams to see what they wanted to do.

Mackie said that he really appreciates all the kind offers, but asked that donations instead go to any charity supporting children. Thanks to some help from his family, he told me, his children will be receiving Christmas presents, and he wants people to support other kids who might not be as fortunate.

He encourages donations to one or more of the following charities:

Judi’s Place For Kids, Pikeville, KY

Care Cottage – Kentucky River Children’s Advocacy Center, Hazard, KY

Shriners Hospitals for Children

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced strength in the face of hardship like I did when I visited with Mackie, Amber, and their family. I felt really fortunate that I was in a position where I could help, by giving Mackie and Amber a chance to tell their own story. But the truth, as Amber explains in the story, is that the Branhams are far from the only family that’s been going through hard times. We at the ReSource encourage you to honor the Branhams and keep in mind those in need.

From Appalshop's WMMT in Whitesburg, KY, Benny Becker covers the economic transition of coal country.