Sunday, July 5, 2009

Different worlds...

I grew up in the deep South, in a different world, I think, from that which existed in many other parts of the country. Life was slower there , people were warmer, and responsibilities seemed much clearer. There were admirable customs and behaviors peculiar to the region, and those of us who lived there knew them well and cherished them as part of our heritage. Kindness, gratitude, and honesty, while sadly not universally practiced even there, were nearly universally held as the standards of basic civility. Along with those came generosity, a genuine concern for the well-being of others, and a willingness to help one's neighbor as one's duty to God. Hospitality was the order of the day, and strangers soon became acquaintances. I stress that, while many of these are Christian teachings, the ways of which I've written were clearly of the culture. I think it would be true to say that this was Christian culture in practice.

Some of us transplanted "old school" Southerners have retained many of these cultural traits, carrying them with us, as we have our other possessions, to our new homes. It is here where the differences become apparent. The reality of it all is that, as a fellow Southerner has written on his blog more than once, the Old Southern ways are sometimes misconstrued by those to whom they are not known; and the results are not always benign. Such an unintended outcome is completely contrary to the code of the Old South, which is never to give offense or cause harm. It is not my intention to claim here that this Southern way is the better way--I leave that to your discretion, gentle reader--but rather to show that it is a different way.

How interesting, then, it has been for me to have discovered "North and South", a BBC series based upon Elizabeth Gaskell's book. It seems that this cultural disparity between these two geographic areas existed, and exists still, not only in our own beloved country but also in another country which is quite dear to me, namely, England. Though I lived there for nearly a year, I was not aware of the depth of the regional differences and the propensity for misunderstandings because of them. It is a reality, though, to which I can well relate. And so here is another clip from "North and South", whose scenery and gentility remind me a great deal of my daydreams from times past in Southern Louisiana.