Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I just returned from a trip to South Carolina, and the people I met there impressed me. Whether I was in an elevator, restaurant, meeting, or tourist site, the locals were friendly, polite, and kind. They smiled often, spoke warmly, and lived hospitably. One stranger sitting next to me in church even hugged me when I stood up after the meeting. I felt loved and cherished there.
I don’t know how or when South Carolinians started a tradition of graciousness, but it’s worth emulating. Perhaps we could smile more, express appreciation more readily, or say a kind word to someone. Repeated small acts of kindness create a culture of humanity.
In South Carolina courtesy was contagious. I observed that the more friendly people were, the more friendly others became. Tourists and locals alike waved and nodded at one another. Total strangers greeted one another with warmth and respect.
My cousins, Hal and Bev, volunteered for four years in two countries, Samoa and the Ukraine. They delivered humanitarian supplies to hospitals and medical clinics, worked in the schools (my cousin, Hal, is a former superintendent of schools), and organized church activities. They loved the people in both countries, but commented that the Polynesian hospitality felt like pure love. The Samoans willingly shared all they had with family and strangers alike. They gave and received freely and laughed often. They lived happily.
The Ukraine people were generally kind and gracious as well. However, years of living in a Communist dictatorship left some feeling disenfranchised and fearful of others. Some lived in fear and isolation. Hal said, “I loved both cultures but wished I could bottle the Polynesian love and give it to the people of the Ukraine. It would be so healing for them.”
We create the culture in our homes. We can be isolating and critical or warm and welcoming. We can also influence the culture in our neighborhoods, churches, and communities. After becoming an unexpected community activist, I discovered that one person can make a big difference even in a large city. We can set a tone of decency, courtesy, and humanity in our communities by the laws we pass, the ordinances we sustain, and the people we elect. We can make a difference.
I like the song, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Today, let peace begin with you. Do something that promotes peace. Take a plate of cookies or some fresh fruit to a shut-in. Call a neighbor. Make a pot of soup for someone who is ill.
I just finished cooking some homemade chicken noodle soup for a neighbor who’s had double knee replacements. I don’t know how much the family will enjoy the meal, but I hope they feel the love.
© Carol Brown