Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Invisible America with Penney Carlton

Penney is my hero! I think we share the same heart-perhaps even the same air-when it comes to the passions that consume us. Both writers, both advocates for Christian publishing, and both living with a fire inside that refuses to die.

As founder of Jude's House many years ago, it was my objective to feed and clothe the low income of our area. Little did I know that endeavor would end up assisting Katrina refuges that migrated their way North for help. We sustained single moms, infants, complete families. It's in my genes to help someone that is going without and I found a camaraderie with Penney in that aspect.

Penney went as far as filming a documentary as it related to the homeless in her Southern town of Nashville. It was a success in that it aired seven times and was responsible for reuniting a family. But it didn't end there. Penney is haunted by the faces of those she talked to. She has lingering questions. How could their faith be so strong in spite of their circumstances and if it happened to them, the ordinary person, could it happen to her? She has penned a book titled The Invisible America that chronicles the stories of those she met. Through her book, the reader can live vicariously through Penney's experience but don't expect easy answers. She is liable to stir more questions and complicate your awareness-even making you feel a bit uncomfortable. Invisible America is a true wake up for those that think they know what being homeless in America means.

Nobody is immune to the pain of loss and shame…

In 2006 I had the privilege of producing a documentary on homelessness in Nashville, TN. The invisible America aired regionally on the Nashville CBS affiliate seven times. Before venturing into the streets of Nashville, it never occurred to me that nobody was immune to homelessness. Yet, within mere hours of our cinematic journey to document the stories of the homeless on film, we would find a truth that to this day ripples through every American flag that flies in this country, I was wrong. For I found in the faces and hearts of those who now lived a life invisible to most of us a raw honesty and true patriotism. And unlike any I had ever experienced before...

Five years have passed since the documentary first aired during the 2005 holiday season in Nashville. Five years ... and I still struggle with what I witnessed, still feel the guilt and still wrestle with what to do with the knowledge I have.

To read the preface and first few chapters, visit The Wordsmith Journal.