This I Believe

Alexis - Ashland, Kentucky
Entered on May 10, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Lasting Charm from the South

I believe in southern kindness.

I was born and raised in Kentucky, and I never realized other places in the country could be that different from my own, or understood why, when people who move into the area, older people claim they just act ‘strange.’

I never thought twice as a kid about smiling at strangers or holding the door for someone. It was normal behavior to pick up something another dropped or moving over on a bench so no one had to stand. I had never seen anyone else act otherwise, either.

Throughout my life my family took vacations; always to Myrtle Beach, Orlando, or Jacksonville. However when I was 17 my brother moved to Indiana and for the first time we were going to be visiting far north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Driving through the town in Northern Indiana the people seemed like anyone from the South; they shopped for the things they needed and talked on their cell phones. When we pulled up outside my brother’s apartment, his neighbors were sitting outside on the porch. As we got out, my father waved and said “How ya’ doin?”

Neither of them gave any indication that they were going to get up or shake his hand or introduce themselves, and then the man finally ask, “Do I know you?”

My family stood somewhat awestruck for a moment, and then headed inside.

It was my first experience in a northern town, and it continued to get worse. At the restaurant later that night, the waitress came up, not smiling, and rather the usual “Hey how are you all, I’m so-and-so, what can I get you to drink?” we were greeted with “What do you want?”

“I’ll have sweet tea to drink, please,” I answered.

“Iced tea?” she said.

“Yeah, sweet tea.”

When she returned, I was given the bitterest tea I had ever tasted in my life. It was not sweetened, at all. She offered me sweet and low as an alternative. It seemed the 4 days in Indiana lasted a lifetime, with no simple luxuries we were used to.

Now, any good southern girl will know there is a large difference in sweet tea and tea with sweet and low. As she will know the difference between a southern boy and a northern boy.

A southern gentleman holds doors, pulls out chairs, washes cars, and respects a woman because he was raised by his mother. He is passionate and knows how to understand a southern woman.

A northern boy can seem as if he was raised in another world. He is more likely to make a girl pay for her own food when out to dinner, and is resistant to taking her home to his family. He doesn’t understand the importance of family.

Although it has never been scientifically tested or proved, I can tell the difference in the two types. I believe in southern kindness because it’s that quality in a person that makes neighbors stand out in their yards and talk. It can mean the difference in whether someone holds the door for you or lets it slam in your face.

A best friend of mine attended a northern college after our graduation from high school. He transferred here after a year, and had a hard time adjusting back to the southern personality.

“You know what made me realize I didn’t belong at that school up there?” He asked me. “One day it started to poor the rain, and I was the only person it seemed who had forgotten his umbrella. There I was, soaking wet, my books were getting ruined, and person after person walked past me with their umbrellas. I was struggling along, trying to keep my jacket collar up, and then finally I felt someone hold their umbrella over my head. I looked over, and there was this girl who had decided help me out, and it turned out she was from Georgia.”

So, although the north is filled with cities like New York, Pittsburg, Chicago and Cleveland, I think I’ll stay in the south forever. I enjoy helping people I don’t know, and chit-chatting with strangers at the grocery store. I like saying ‘coke’ and not ‘soda.’ I like a whole cup of sugar in a pitcher of sweet tea. I like sitting on my front porch and knowing that when people walk by they are going to wave hello, and wouldn’t think I’m crazy for doing it back.