Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Charleston: Conquering Challenges

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge of Charleston's Cooper River,
a recent addition to Charleston's scenic vista.

Last week my wife and I spent several days in historic Charleston, S.C. It was our second trip there, and we agreed that if we were to live in another Southern city, Charleston probably would be it.

Rightfully proud of its rich heritage, Charleston is a classic example of a determined community confronting challenges and prevailing against them.

Mansions along the Battery.
During its early years, Charleston was a popular target for marauding pirates. In April 1861, the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor, ignited the Civil War. The earthquake of 1886 devastated the city, taking dozens of lives and causing widespread destruction. And Hurricane Hugo in 1989, a category 4 storm, dealt the city another major blow.

Despite these and other calamities, the people of Charleston repeatedly pulled together to repair, rebuild and restart. Today the city and its surrounding islands remain a focal point of Southern tradition and culture. The area boasts excellent educational institutions, like The Citadel and the College of Charleston, along with some of the finest seafood you can eat anywhere.

Statue in garden maze
at Magnolia Plantation.
Visitors strolling the city’s streets and alleys find it one continuous “Kodak Moment,” featuring the stately mansions of the Battery, the renowned Rainbow Row houses, ornately and uniquely designed churches, and picturesque plantations.

One attraction gripped us in particular – the Boone Hall plantation on Sullivan’s Island in nearby Mount Pleasant. Known for its visual grandeur, it serves as a memorial to Southern aristocracy.

At the same time, just a short walk from the hall, “Slave Street” permanently reminds visiting guests of slavery and the hardships endured by African-American men, women and children. The 360-square-foot brick houses, standing in a row like tiny barracks, each accommodated several families.

Tiny houses line "Slave Street" at Boone Hall Plantation.
Today visitors can enter those former residences, catch a glimpse of what life must have been like to be a slave, and appreciate a different kind of pride and perseverance – that of a strong-willed people that overcame obstacles many of us can never fully comprehend.

We live in a “quick fix,” minimize-the-pain world, but in reality, as they say, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Charleston and its diverse citizenry are living proof of that.

Although it seems paradoxical, Romans 5:3-4 instructs us to “…rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

The apostle James agrees when he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

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