Hospitality in the Deep South

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I feel like I am living (really visiting)  in another time, and I guess I am.  I have been in Alabama for a week, for two separate events with long term friends.  One was the baby shower for a friend’s first grandchild, and the other was to help a friend with surgery and recovery. These special friends live an hour apart, so I was able to go back and forth and be with them and be a part of both. These wonderful experiences (wonderful for me to be a part of, although not necessarily wonderful for my friend having surgery)! showed the contrast between daily life in more northern states and in the Deep South.

We all know that Alabama is in the south.  I also live in the south, but in a more northern southern state, North Carolina.  I am convinced the farther south we go, things are very different.  And in this recent experience of mine, different in a positive way.

I arrived in Alabama on Friday night.  I met my friend Judy, who was having a total knee replacement a few days later, and some of her family  (who are my chosen family) and friends at a restaurant.  The weekend started with the birthday dinner celebration of Judy’s son-in-law, Justin.  There were 15 of us, and we had a good time of food, fellowship, and celebration.  This was the first of three celebrations of this family this weekend.

Speaking of celebrations, the baby shower for my friend Pam’s granddaughter, was a major celebration, with 80-100 people who came to shower the parents, Allison and Seth.  I was privileged to be one of the hosts.  It was a lovely event, with delicious and beautiful food, and many extra touches.  Many of us remarked that the master hostess, Katy, did such an amazing job with this event that she should be an event planner! (You can see more about this beautiful shower at everydayliving.me.) After the shower I was able to spend some quality time with Pam and her family (who are also my chosen family), time catching up on life and each other.  Our time together was too short, for Judy’s surgery was calling. But not before two other family celebrations.

Early Saturday morning, Judy and I headed out early to drop her precious pet (Mikey, a Maltese) off at the groomers, then to coffee, and then for a mani-pedi, which was “necessary” before she had knee surgery.  We then went shopping for necessities for the party Saturday evening at her house for her grandson Cody’s 16th birthday, and also for another party on Sunday for her son Lee’s 40th birthday. A great time was had by all at both parties!!

Judy is known by many as the party mother and grandmother, the one who always has time to play with the kids, (of all ages)! and she did not disappoint this weekend. Instead of resting for her impending surgery, or doing things for herself that were relaxing, she (as is her norm) hosted 2 parties in three days and entertained others.

Once the partying was over, it was time for Judy’s total knee replacement.  She and I arrived at the hospital @ 5am.  I was to be her nurse for a few days, which I wanted to be, so her adult children could work. Once I went back to North Carolina, it would be her family and local friends who would be the caregivers.

While riding to the hospital Judy gave me a list of 13 friends and family, most to text and some to call, to give them an update on her condition.  Her instructions were specific.  Some could be notified in a group text, a couple were to be sent individual texts, and some were to be called. The fact that even at the time of surgery, hospitality was at the forefront of Judy’s mind.  She was more concerned that each person being notified have their preferred method of communication than the efficiency of notifying all at the same time in the same manner.

Thankfully, the surgery was uneventful, then came the in hospital recovery. Several friends came to the hospital to visit, and being of the same hospitable nature, brought candy, flowers, and some items Judy needed.  One friend brought several bags of chocolates, plenty for Judy, and also some for the staff.  There were many calls and texts, a caregiver tree (my term), and a schedule for meals to be provided when Judy went home for recovery.

Some readers will question the appropriateness of visiting friends in the hospital, thinking that the patient needs rest more than company.  But not Judy.  Friends showing their hospitality in this manner is more important to her than resting.  As another friend of mine often says, “We can sleep when we are dead!” 

Some will be surprised at the caregiver tree, and perhaps also meals being provided by friends.  While these are both done in other areas than the Deep South, especially in situations of major illness and death, I think it is rare to have these loving touches provided when the surgical event is a common surgery. I believe it is the Deep South that holds on to these traditions more than in any other parts of the country.  It is also more common in the Deep South for face to face conversation to be more common than excessive use of technology, including TV, mobile phones, etc.  In fact, in the 7 days I was in Alabama I rarely watched or listened to the news, whereas in my normal days I am a news junkie.  And I had more one on one conversations than I remember having in many years. In our daily life in North Carolina most people are on their technology more than making human connection. (With a couple of  exceptions.  My husband and I have some friends we visit with a couple of times a year.  When we are all together the conversation flows, the TV is off, and we are perfectly fine doing nothing other than eating and talking!)

What are the insights from these few days and these times with special friends?  There are several. Life seems to be slower in the Deep South, with personal relationships a priority, and actions that reflect such. There is often more human connection and less technology. Time with family and friends is a priority.  Celebrations are common, and they are often at home, with home cooked food.  While the baby shower was in rented space, the space was a beautiful antebellum home! The celebrations are often multigenerational.  There were children of all ages in all of these celebrations mentioned.  I don’t recall attending any events in the Deep South that did not include children, while I have attended many events in other areas that were adults only.  I am not judging this difference of multigenerational or adults only events, just noting a difference.  There are some functions that should be adults only, but children learn valuable lessons when they are able to co mingle with adults other than their parents.  I propose that the adults learn valuable lessons also!

Perhaps the most valuable lesson from these few days with long term friends is the reinforcement of relationships that span the ages, and how they are a significant part of nurturing and nourishing us.

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About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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