Spending time in the Southern United States is a trip into another way of being. Any sense of rushing will be banished, regardless of your sense of urgency. The urge to talk fast will quietly go away, if only because you will be asked to repeat yourself. Most importantly, in meeting people you will be left with a sense that they are interested in you.
From restaurants to building supplies, from motorcycle stores to specialty sports, I have been touched by a Southern way of caring. I do not know if individuals in the south are statistically more caring than those in New York or California. I do know that in my time in Tennessee that more individuals have asked about who I am, where I am from, and how I am enjoying my visit than anywhere else that I have been.
The personal touch comes in a slow patient manner. Nothing is rushed. No assumptions are made. Everyone knows I am not from the south, but beyond that everything is possible.
It is a way of approaching others that was established centuries ago. Even when Paul adopted it, the model was old. The way that he applied it worked then as it does now. “Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope. Then he came to Greece and stayed on for three months.” (Acts 20.2)
Those in the south have a habit of taking Paul’s model to a new level. They appear to appreciate life, intensely. They appear to value the little things, especially when it comes to relationships. Manners, institutions that are valued, and traditional symbols are important.
As my time here begins to wind down, I am struck by what I will miss. I will miss the pace of life (slower). I will miss the times when one simply stops and is. I will even miss the southern drawl that prevents anyone from talking fast. Most of all, I will miss the caring that comes with being here.