Lessons from the South

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

By: Alison Harrison, Mountaineer News Contributor

Posted: March 04, 2020 | 04:49PM EST


Ellisville, MS - Recently, my husband and I moved to the south, Mississippi, to be exact. It does not get much further south than we are living which is one hour from the coast, the ‘Deep South’ as they say down here. Growing up my favorite movie was Gone with the Wind. I loved watching old movies on Saturday afternoons at my grandparents’ house. I always dreamed of being a southern belle, a debutant, if you will. I grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Although we traveled as a family when I was young and quite a bit as an adult, Buckhannon was always home and I couldn’t wait to see those West Virginia welcome signs and the comfort of knowing I was almost home.

For quite some time, my husband and I both knew that moving away from home was much more than just a thought, it was becoming a reality. With the work force not offering potential for my husband leaving Almost Heaven West Virginia was becoming more and more real with each passing day. Once he landed the job and it was official we announced our leave to family and friends alike and it was bitter sweet.

Many people may have a thought or a few when they think of a certain place. Perhaps the thought is invoked by a memory, something they have seen or something they have heard, but in the mind, that perception is real. All my life I grew up in rural West Virginia, where we knew everyone, and if we didn’t know them then surely someone we knew did. I always saw my little town as perfect, safe, and somewhere I really never wanted to leave, but thought about a few times. I also always had the perception of places in the south being known for southern charm, the sweet south.

In the comforts of home we become complacent. We know where we want to go, who we will likely see, how long it will take to get there, where we will park, and so on. We probably never think what it may be like for a newcomer to move into our little town. They don’t know the ins-and-outs of the area, the best places to eat, and the right church for them, which grocery store to go to for the best options and prices etc. When you become the newcomer, you are flooded with those thoughts every time you leave the house. Staying at home and doing the mundane just seems more fitting than trying to learn all the new faces and places.

Here in the sweet south, I have worked hard to unpack and organize and make the new house our home. You have probably always heard that home is where the heart is, well, that is true. I love my husband so naturally home is with him wherever we may go, but a piece of my heart is in West Virginia with the family and friends that I hold dear. After a week of unpacking, we got a knock on the door Saturday evening; it was our new neighbors with cookies. They wanted to welcome us to Mississippi and with kindness and generosity they did just that. This southern class reminded me of life growing up in Buckhannon.

I remember a time when neighbors were friends, playing games in the yard, catching lightning bugs after dark and waving when the neighbors passed by our house. I quickly thought of the Buckhannon I left and realized how much things had changed. My neighbors hardly ever spoke, they did not wave even when I did, and they complained on social media about my dogs running in their yard. People posting negative opinions were constantly causing division, but here, it’s not that way. All the neighbors’ dogs go in the other’s yard and nobody cares. Your neighbors are your friends, they invite you to cook-out, church, and lunch dates. They actually text you to see how you are doing and if you need anything while they are out. ​

My southern neighbors and friends, remind me of one friend in particular back home, Dr. Ali Khan. Doc has worked so hard to bring peace among the community by drinking coffee with those who offer different opinions. He has gone as far to start a podcast - inviting guests to come together and be more united; it is all about understanding. Of all the friends I left behind, friends I have known my entire life, Doc has checked on me almost daily. See many times the connections we have made in life with “friends” do not withstand change. As we get older, our circle does tend to get smaller because we only want those real connections in our lives. Despite the deepness of a connection, I encourage you to be neighborly to everyone you encounter. Try it for a day, a week, a month, maybe it will become a way of life, maybe you will change someone’s life.

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