Y’all better believe it is, and I’m fixin’ to tell ya’ll about it! That sounded weird with a British accent. I just spent a few days in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina, where I experienced a taste of southern hospitality in all its glory, and I’m still basking in the afterglow of its warmth. I’d heard of these generous, welcoming people with their sweet tea and biscuits on the front porch, and now I know it really IS a thing….
I’ve always wanted to visit Charlotte, partly because that’s my daughter’s name (please don’t judge) and partly because I had a certain expectation about it being filled with friendly folks and flavoursome food. I was not disappointed. Lyndon and I were impressed by everything and everyone. The air feels different when you fly into a place that has a highway called Billy Graham Parkway. Life takes on a slower rhythm when people literally speak with less haste. Strangers welcome you to their immaculate city like it’s their job. Pinch me, someone.
The purpose of my trip was to attend the Hope*Writers #guidedwritingretreat and glean some nuggets of inspiration and practical application for my writing life. Of course, it did so much more than that, and I was blessed beyond measure to meet so many dear friends from across North America in real life! For any writers out there, it can be an incredibly lonely, solitary existence and I so recommend getting together with like-minded writerly types to share and encourage and generally geek-out over the same things!
Part of our retreat was a personal writing time, where we all tootled off to coffee shops to implement some instruction from the previous evening’s session. Four hours of uninterrupted writing time to work on “something”. I’ll be a little transparent here— I’ve been itching to work on a devotional book with the fascinating yet fear-inducing subject of “hospitality”, and even though there were other far more pressing deadlines I could have pursued, hospitality was on my heart.
That morning, as I mulled hospitality-type thoughts while standing in line for a cup of writing juice (coffee), the young lady in front of me turned and asked if she could pay for my order. What the what? Perhaps I misheard that delightful southern drawl. No, she asked again and my ridiculous Britishness in its Hugh Grant-like stammering came out all, “Oh, that’s okay—there’s no need to—but that’s awfully kind—I really couldn’t possibly…”
“Please?” she implored. “I got paid a little extra in cash this week and I’d just like to treat someone to a coffee. Please let me.”
Well how could I say no to that? If I was a crier, that would have been my blubbering moment.
“Thank you so much. This is incredibly kind.”
She grinned. “You’re welcome. It’s just coffee.”
Firstly, it was a caramel macchiato, so it wasn’t “just coffee”, and secondly, it was a little whisper from God. A little lesson to one who was about to dive into writing about showing hospitality and kindness—apparently, I also have a lot to learn about being on the receiving end.
It got me wondering when I last showed kindness to a complete stranger. And how I go out of my way to welcome people to my city. And my church. And my neighbourhood. And whether a smile and a friendly greeting is my initial reaction on every occasion. Hmmm.
My problem, and maybe yours, too, is time. We’re always in a rush, every minute accounted for, trying desperately to cram as much as is humanly possible into every God-given day. Lots of it is good things, don’t get me wrong—family, work, home, exercise, ministry, community— but I wonder what would happen if we all built intentional margin into our lives so that we could just BE. Actually have time to be friendly. Hospitable. Kind. Welcoming.
I love this quote I found in one of the museums we went to in Charlotte:
“The ladies next door and around would come and sit on the porch. Every afternoon they visited one another. And they sat there and talked ‘til 5 o’clock.” Frances Latta, Mill Worker, Carrboro, N.C.
You can almost hear those ladies laugh and share and encourage and tease, can’t you? Relationship was key and kindness happened over sweet tea on the porch. And I imagine food was involved because let me tell you, food is all the things in North Carolina! They know how to barbeque and they are not stingy. Bless their hearts!
When it comes to hospitality, one would hope that it is evident in church communities. And there’s a church on every corner! Lyndon and I decided to visit a mega-version and were fixin’ to go to Elevation Church. When we arrived, I’m pretty sure our mouths hung open in astonishment for the first half-hour at least. Police directed traffic into the parking lot (everyone goes to church?) and then we followed the streams of people all heading toward the massive building.
Hospitality? Oh, I should say so— I lost count of how many cheery greeters welcomed us and said how glad they were to have us visiting with them. After incredible worship, a powerful preach by Steven Furtick, and a divine appointment and prayer time with a sweet pastor’s wife who just happened to be a fellow author, we were in awe. God moved in and through his people with kindness and hospitality. We were even given T-shirts (which are wonderfully soft) for being newbies. I kid you not. Blown away, friends, we were blown away!
One day, I would love to return to this beautiful place and to the people with the beautiful hearts. Southern hospitality is a thing to behold and I’m incredibly grateful to have sampled its sincerity. I hope I’ve brought a little of it back up north with me— I certainly need to remember this little gem as I go about my days:
“Hospitality is love in action. Hospitality is the flesh and muscle on the bones of love.” Alexander Strauch
How about y’all? 🙂
P.S. Want some Proverbs 31 wisdom to strengthen your purpose and passion? Sign up for my free ebook devotional, DIAMOND DEVOS 31 HERE
Linking up with some fabulous encouragers. Check them out: