Those of us who reside in Indiana like to take pride in what we call 'Hoosier Hospitality.' And indeed, most Hoosiers are quite hospitable. Whether it's waving to a neighbor, holding the door for someone at the store, or sending a card to an acquaintance who is sick and in need of comfort, Indiana is known as a place where those things happen routinely.
I enjoy doing my bit and opening the door to a store or restaurant for those I don't even know. It's my way of being hospitable, a kind of 'saying hello.' However, I like to be appreciated. When someone rushes through and doesn't say thank you, like I was supposed to stand there and open the door for them, I get, well, honked off! Those people must be from some other part of the country.
They're not likely from the deep South. This Fourth of July weekend my wife, Carla, and youngest daughter, Kayla, spent two days visiting our oldest, Allison, a doctoral candidate in Food Science at the University of Georgia. Although the main campus is at Athens, the experiment station is at Griffin, about 35 miles southwest of Atlanta. That's where she's lived for some 14 months, and where she works in her lab.
Griffin is a mix of the old-time town of the deep south and the new south, full of places to shop and eat. It's Atlanta sprawling out toward the countryside, a piece at a time. We met some interesting people, all hospitable. My only question is what they all do for a living. I didn't see a real good field of corn until I got back into southern Kentucky. Surely they're not all loggers, chopping down the famous Georgia pine. We saw our share of them, and the infamous kudzu that covers everything it can find. Kudzu's notoriety has spread into Indiana now that it's known as an over-wintering host for Asian soybean rust. Fortunately, the folks that watch for these sorts of thing say there is only a limited amount of kudzu this far north. And what kudzu there is today in Indiana is under attack from those who want to eradicate it so that if Asian rust ever gets this far early enough in the season to do damage, there at least won't be an over-wintering host to support it.
My most memorable part of the trip, though, wasn't opening doors. Instead, it was July 4 church service at Devotie Baptist Church, a quaint church of something more than 100 members in Griffin. Our daughter Allison has attended there for about a year. We probably shook more hands that Sunday than we do at our own church of 1,000 members on any given Sunday.
The 'glad you're here,' had a sincere ring to it. And several of these folk wanted to meet 'Allison's parents.' I'm not used to being known as Allison's dad. And before we could thank them for helping support her and befriending her while she studies there, they thanked us for letting them borrow Allison for a little while!
You see Allison's birthday was Flag Day, June 14. We simply couldn't get there then. But her new-found friends, some 30 in all, mostly from her church, planned and carried off a surprise birthday party in her honor! One of the families owns a restaurant, and it became the stage for her birthday party, complete with gifts and even a gift from a friend's grandparents. Allison had never even met the grandparents!
Yes, southern hospitality is alive and well! Hoosier hospitality is too, but hospitality is not exclusive to those living in Indiana. Thank the Lord there are still people in this country who value morality and decency, and who genuinely care about others. That's what hospitality should be all about.