People in Lebanon, Tennessee, are funny about their town name.
“If you gon’ say it,” the bartender explains, “say it right. It’s pronounced ‘Leb’nun.’”
I order a beer, attempt to say the name, and perfectly butcher it.
“Keep practicing,” the bartender says,
Lebanon is a Rockwellian town. This city has everything you’d need in an all-American hamlet. A town square. A feed and seed. A Dollar Tree.
The bartender asks what I am doing in town. So I tell him. I came to Lebanon on a pilgrimage of sorts. I’ve received an unusual amount of emails from Tennesseans telling me about Lebanon.
One woman emailed last week and said “Lebanon is where America’s kindest people live.”
So I asked my bartender if he agreed with this statement.
He nodded. “One hundred percent. We have some first-class people here.”
Then he told me about Cody Liddle.
Last month, Cody sustained multiple injuries in a boating accident on Hickory Lake. His outboard motor flipped into his boat and struck him. Cody almost died. To say he has a long road to recovery is an understatement.
But that’s where the good folks of Lebanon stepped in.
Money started running thin for the Liddles. There was the hospital stay, the insurance deductibles, missed work, the price of food.
“The whole town banded together,” the bartender says. “It was amazing.”
Someone set up a donation page with a $10,000-dollar goal. Within days, Lebanon raised over $20,000.
Then the local T-shirt shop printed shirts. The drive raised $9,000 bucks faster than you can say “Leb’nun.”
There is also an upcoming bass tournament in Cody’s honor. All proceeds go to the Liddles.
“People are the real deal in Lebanon,” says the barkeep.
“Leb-BAH-non,” I try to pronounce.
And there’s Chelsea Stiltner. Twenty-eight years old. Beautiful. Contagious smile. Mother of five. Prime of her life.
A few weeks ago, Chelsea was checking the mailbox when a sudden gust blew her mail into the street. Chelsea chased the envelopes into the road and bent over to pick them up.
She was struck by a car traveling upwards of 30 mph.
Chelsea is partially paralyzed. She will have to relearn to walk. Her husband, Seth, set up a donations page. And the donations came pouring in from local Lebanites (Lebanese?).
In mere days the Stiltners had exceeded their financial goal, and the total is still climbing. They could still use some help, but the bartender believes they will receive this help.
“Lebanon just shows up,” he says.
“LEB-uh-non,” I attempt to utter.
“Bless your heart.”
And don’t forget Devin Jackson. Devin is 20. He grew up as an orphan. He bounced through the foster pinball machine. His family is nonexistent. His life has been fraught with the kind of rejection most will never understand.
Devin grew up working multiple jobs just to support himself. He is putting himself through college classes. And just when life was starting to look up, doctors diagnosed him with an aggressive brain tumor.
Devin has no medical insurance. He has no family. He has nobody to hold him and kiss his forehead.
But nevermind. Because the people in Lebanon have been responding. Money has been trickling in like creek water.
And when doctors said his neurological function was declining; when they said he’d need chemo and radiation, people in town took to flooding the family-less young man with postcards of reassurance.
Consequently, if you’d like to send Devin a card, send it to Devin Jackson, Hartman Dr. Ste G. PO Box 161, Lebanon, TN, 37087.
“LEH-buh-non,” I say, mangling the syllables.
The bartender shakes his head. “You’re just embarrassing yourself.”
And lastly, there’s Rissa. A beautiful single mother with a matinee smile, and two boys. She is the kind of gal who would never ask for help. She is a soldier. But she just can’t do it on her own anymore.
Rissa went in for a routine pap smear. Doctors found cervical cancer. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Not only is Rissa a busy mother, she is also a full-time college student, studying to become a therapist.
Currently, Rissa is enduring the rigors of cancer treatment, still dutifully serving as a single mom and holding down a job. She has no health insurance, and not much support.
A donations page was set up a few weeks ago. Not many donations have come in. But they will. Believe me. And I’ll tell you why.
“Because,” explains the bartender, “this is Leb’nun Freaking Tennessee.”
What he said.
Dee Thompson - March 28, 2023 3:40 pm
I grew up in Knoxville and I can tell you that people in rural Tennessee tend to be among the best of the best. Dolly Parton is from rural East Tennessee and she is a great example of philanthropy. Sean, can you post links to any GoFundMe or those type pages so people reading your column can donate?
Johnny Bearden - March 28, 2023 6:47 pm
Dee – this is Rissa’s I looked up;
Johnny Bearden - March 28, 2023 6:57 pm
This is Chelsea Stiltner’s GoFundMe page:
Johnny Bearden - March 28, 2023 7:01 pm
This is Cody Liddle’s GoFundMe page:
I don’t find one for Devin Jackson of “Leb’nun”, TN!
Carlin Brooks - March 28, 2023 10:07 pm
And on top of all that, check out https://www.sherrysrun.org/
Ken M. - March 30, 2023 9:09 pm
I grew up near Leb’nun, in a little hamlet called Martha. It’s about half way between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet (pronounced Mount Joo-yet, not Mount Joo-lee-yette… that’s how we spot out of towners), and I love this post. We can’t wait to see you at the Capitol Theater in June. I have fond memories of that venue — it’s where I saw Star Wars the first time as a kid… man, what memories.