Where are you from?

Who are your people?

Where do you attend church?

All of these are considered polite conversation openers in the South. And it doesn’t matter whether it is a friend to friend conversation or a business conversation, people in the South like to know who they are talking with.

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And as soon as one of these questions is answered the following conversation will be trying to fit your answer into what is known by the person asking the question.

If you say you are from Bay then immediately the person who asked will want to know if you are related to or if you know a person or persons in Bay that the questioner knows. If you say who your people are then you are going to be asked if they are related to other people of the same name or if you give out your church information they you are going to be regaled with stories of others who attend that church or you will be asked how some old person who attends that church is doing.  All of this is the polite way to converse and gives the other person an opportunity to decide if you are “their kind” of person.  If you are going to be accepted into the community or if you are going to do business with them, you best hope you are found to be “their kind.”

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Once you fit into the community, or tribe, then you are accepted and can make friends or do business, but the “fitting into” has to come first for Southerners.

If you are not from a local community, have no people in the area, have not attended a local church yet, then you begin to make your own tribe by attending a local church and participating in activities, sign up as a volunteer at the library or hospital, or go to a neighbor and ask to borrow a cup of sugar. Yes, you can actually meet your neighbors and connect with them by doing this, it is immaterial whether you need the sugar, just take a cup and knock on the door. It’s a time-honored tradition.

People who forget these rules and try to get along in the South will find their way very much like slogging through molasses. A lot of effort for very little progress.

Bless their pea-picking hearts.

Unity Baptist Church