Thursday, August 14, 2008

Small Town Grace?

Walking up to a stranger at a gathering and starting a conversation takes a little psychic effort for a lot of us.

Yesterday, I saw that done repeatedly as if it were as effortless as checking email.

I was at a funeral at a Baptist Church in the little town of Buies Creek in eastern North Carolina. As I paused in the narthex after the service, and later at the lunch in an assembly room, people one after another came up to me and introduced themselves, explained how they knew the family, how they were related, and so on.

They did it so gracefully that I began to develop a theory: that they were all members of the congregation and this was their Sunday morning practice with visitors. That's true in churches I've attended, but I've never been the one to go over and speak to the stranger. Here the greeting habit seemed culture-wide.

It was very nice. I felt welcomed and engaged; the greetings turned easily into interesting brief conversations. These encounters did not seem dutiful. Each chat seemed motivated by genuine interest and good nature. (This doesn't happen to me everywhere I go, and I did not spark it by wearing a funny hat.)

It made me feel like leaving some walls down and seeing what happens.

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Mojo said...

I'm trying to picture the hat you might have chosen... And I got nothin'.

Gord Harrison of It Strikes Me Funny just finished up a 7-part series on a similar phenomenon that took place in his hometown of London, ON during The Blackout (anyone who was living or visiting in northeastern North America at that time uses that capitalization). Obviously the circumstances were different, but the underlying forces at work I think are very much the same. In hard times -- be they physical or not -- people bond. There have probably been studies conducted to figure out why this is so, but the science behind it doesn't really matter. The truth of it is nigh infallible -- at least in my observations.

Keeping the momentum once the crisis has passed has always been the part that's eluded us as a species.

So perhaps what you were seeing was an outgrowth of that basic human tendency.

Or maybe... they really are just that friendly in Buies Creek.

Peggy Payne said...

I think you're absolutely right, Mojo. And I had read of this phenomenon in bombed areas, but I didn't think of it. Anyone who can figure out how to sustain it will really be on to something.