Yes, There's a Great Southern Story Here!
Dungeness Ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia 2005
Job 13:17 NIV
"Listen carefully to my words; let your ears take in what I say."
Adjusting to life in the South was not easy at first. Like any cultural change, I had to become flexible to new customs and traditions. However, once I embraced these, I learned to appreciate Southern charm.
Life moves at a slower pace here compared to the Midwest where I grew up and where everyone wants to skip the narratives of life to just get to the "bottom line."
The Southern storyteller tradition has long been an admired literary art. I've found storytellers everywhere I roam: in the bank, the grocery store, the hospital.
The hospital waiting room was hardest for me. I heard grim story after story in the Intensive Care Unit last summer. As I nursed a friend back to health, I met wives and husbands nervously pacing the floor or rocking in their seats waiting for word on their loved ones.
One man conducted business on his phone and laptop in the waiting room. He held a conference call among strangers. How awkward for him. He negotiated a business deal in the midst of a personal crisis. Life goes on in spite of our problems.
A woman who lived over an hour away from the hospital slept in the waiting room. Her husband's heart was bad. And his lungs. And other parts of his body. He was barely going to make it. They didn't have much money. She didn't have a place to stay. He was all she had in the world. She didn't know what she was going to do. She was living one hour at a time.
The narratives of life define the South. The more I listen to people, the more I can pray for them. They look for a kind ear to talk to, not someone to solve their problems. They want someone who cares enough to give them the time to listen to their story.
Life in the South isn't any easier than it is anywhere else in the United States.
The difference is, in the South, people allow the narratives of life to pour out of their souls as freely as sweet tea with a twist of lemon.
We spend time chatting over a glass of tea not to get to the bottom line, but to get to know each other.
Lord, help me listen better to those who tell their story. Let me lift them up to you in prayer as their needs are unveiled.