The other night at the grocery store, I saw a man give his shopping cart to a young woman. It was an important moment for me, a reminder for why I moved here in the first place so many years ago.
She was walking around Kroger with her arms full of food, ready to drop everything. The man looked at her and without hesitating, said, “Miss, please take my cart.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, fully aware of the fact that she hadn't planned accordingly. Adding one more thing to the pile in her arms would have caused her to drop everything.
He didn't hesitate. Without another word, he turned the cart over to her and walked away. Again, I was reminded: This is why I love living in the South.
I wasn't always from the South. In fact, I spent the first 22 years of my life in the North, as a Yankee. I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, then moved to central Illinois for college. I spent the following year on the road, traveling all over the U.S. with a music group.
It wasn't until I was 23 that I made the move to Tennessee. My girlfriend wanted to get into the music industry, and I wanted to marry her. So she moved to Nashville, and I followed her.
At first, I thought southern culture was kind of ridiculous. Sweet tea. Lots of churches. Religious attitudes out the wazoo. Bleh. It just seemed so phony. Every corner I turned, there was an voluptuous woman in a spring, floral-print dress with too much makeup, telling me, “Bless yer heart.”
But over time, I've grown to love southern culture. I've realized there is more than meets the eye to the Confederate states. There is rich history and a hard work ethic. There is humility and faith. There is a strong loyalty to family and town and an appreciation for what we have and where we come from.
I can't think of a better place to raise my kids than a region in which a man gives up his cart (or “buggy” as they're sometimes called) for a young lady in the grocery store.
Why is the South an ideal place for someone to live? I have a few reasons for crossing the Mason-Dixon line:
Reason #1: The Weather
The weather here is warm and mostly pleasant.
I'm naturally cold-blooded, so the year I spent in Minnesota was practically torture. I remember during the month of January, I would hear warnings of going outside for more than 15 minutes, because you could freeze to death. That is not my kind of weather.
Living in Tennessee, I get the opportunity to experience all four seasons without freezing to death. I'd rather be sweating than shaking from the cold, and the hot summers here allow me to do just that. Fortunately, there's enough sweet tea to help me keep cool.
Reason #2: Southern Hospitality
At first it seemed phony, and certainly there is some pretense at times, but the reality is people are generally nicer in the South. They really are hospitable.
My friend Bob used to sell encyclopedias in college and often tells me it was common for families to invite him — a traveling salesman — in for lunch. During this period in his life when he went door-to-door, he never missed a meal.
If you live in the South, you will hear your fair share of “sirs” and “ma'ams,” and in a culture where civility and chivalry are becoming all but extinct, this is refreshing.
Reason #3: Faith and culture
As with hospitality, the influence of religion on southern culture sometimes feels fake. It's sometimes hard to see past the veneer of the Bible Belt to what people really believe.
Moreover, it's not uncommon to hear people use words like “God” “blessing” and “Jesus” in a conversation about politics, culture, or the news. If you didn't grow up with this, it can be overwhelming.
But there is a strand of faith found in the South that is, indeed, authentic. I love that you hear people on the evening news or morning talk show freely talk about their faith in God or that you may encounter a stranger who offers to pray for you.
While Christianity isn't forced here, it's not apologized for, either. As a person of faith myself, I love that.
The South may not be for everyone, but I honestly can't see myself moving back north any time soon; I'm a self-made Southerner, through and through.
Why do you love where you live? Share in the comments.