Take That Road

May 01, 2015
Kathy Hagen, The Eden Alternative

TN Fence

Driving through the hills of Tennessee, there were times when I was headed uphill and could not see the other side, having to trust that there was still a road as I drove blindly forward. I sometimes found, on the other side of that hill, that there was a quick curve that had to be maneuvered, or another hill to climb, but I kept moving forward.

I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Beechgrove, TN, and found it after driving quite the rollercoaster of twists, turns, those blind hills, and gravelly crunches. When I arrived at the beautiful home, I was greeted by my hosts, Bill and Joanne. Bill swept up my suitcase while Joanne quickly stated, “You’re going to sit right down, and we’re going to get to know each other!” She asked about my family and my work. Bill joined us, told me the story of when they built the house, and how they kept making it bigger and bigger. Joanne told me how it became a B&B. Then, they invited me to lunch at the tea room in Bell Buckle!

I had never experienced such friendliness at a B&B, and it got me to thinking about how we, at The Eden Alternative, encourage people to build and nurture relationships. Joanne and Bill already knew. I learned as much about them, as they did about me. I learned that Bill was in the Navy and Joanne was a National Sales Manager. I learned about their children & grandchildren. I told them about my family, and work, and that I was in Tennessee to be at my dear friend Meredith’s wedding.

Joanne asked about The Eden Alternative. Her mother had been in a place where they woke her up early to have breakfast, even though she wanted to sleep in. She didn’t understand why. At the B&B, they asked me when I would be up and when I would want breakfast. They offered me things to do and encouraged me, but never insisted. Why wasn’t Joanne’s mom extended the same simple courtesy?

I went to Tennessee by myself, expecting to experience some loneliness since I had extra days without responsibilities. I had plenty of time to be on my own and relax, take long walks, and putter around with my iPad. But if I wanted company, it was there for me. I had lovely conversations with Joanne and Bill, and they shared their life stories with me. Instead of loneliness, I found companionship.

I found ways to help with the wedding festivities and made new friends. Everyone was so surprised that I had come so far to go to the wedding. “Meredith is one of the most beautiful people I know,” I responded. “She is important to me. I value our relationship and I have the opportunity to nurture it, so that’s what I am doing here. It means so much to me to be able to be here.” These are once in a lifetime experiences that bring meaning to our lives.

I learned to drive in the dark, in the rain, on the twisty wooded roads of Tennessee. By the last day, I was a pro at winding my way around. I had found new friends, been cared for in ways I never knew I needed, and I had a life-changing experience in tiny towns with big green hills. I learned the true meaning of Southern hospitality, and I will never forget it. I will remember this experience when I meet visitors from other places and I will help them to feel cared for, and I will bring this to my daily life.

It’s amazing how we forget just how simple it is. I encourage everyone to take that road with the twists and turns and ups and downs, and let things happen that just might change your life for the better!

3 Comments. Leave new

Bill and Joanne are beautiful people. They go to my church and I am not surprised at what you experienced staying with them. They have often invited our youth group to their Lovely home to roast hot dogs and marshmallows in their firepit and we all received the love and warmth that you were blessed to experience. 🙂


What a wonderful and well-deserved tribute to Joanne and Bill .They are life long friends of ours and we love them dearly!! Joanne NEVER meets a stranger and Bill is a true SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN!! Their home is not only beautiful but is a reflection of their hospitality.Every person is a new door to a different world for them. People who have had the privilege to meet and stay with Joanne and Bill have been truly blessed!!


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