Updated: May 3, 2021
She walked through the square, on a mission to find something to satiate her hunger. A man reached out a hand, entreating her into conversation with him and his son. They lived the block over and were enjoying a Saturday evening in the square.
"So, my son wants us to get matching tattoos. What do you think?" Gideon looked at her expectantly. He welcomed her initial answer. It was in line with his thinking, concerned with the feeling of knives cutting into flesh. Painful. His son quickly countered. He was nearing entry into university. His one request, forearms adorned with One Love and 1 Love respectively. A testament to a father-son bond. Something to ensure he wasn't forgotten as he entered a season of advanced education in criminal justice.
She considered his side as Gideon added, "Hey, I'm 63! I'm not getting any younger." She pivoted, "Well, if not now, then when?" His laughter echoed across the courtyard. He's got nothing to lose.
They were so dang friendly. It seemed so natural here in Savannah. Welcome camaraderie with perfect strangers. No intimidation. Just open, friendly dialogue. As she continued on her way, she checked herself. Why didn't she stay and sit awhile? She'd enjoyed the exchange. It seemed so normal here. They were engaging, their smiles warm and laughter contagious. In less than five minutes she had made new friends. Who would have thought?
Back at home, in a land of fear, paranoia and mistrust, this would have been an unwelcome entreaty. She lived where the local Facebook feeds were filled with Ring images of intruders, people stealing packages from doorsteps, fueling residents with ammunition. Requiring the acquisition of armor which in a sleepy suburban community should - in theory - be immune to such antics.
She continued through City Market, meandering through shops, perusing eateries. Gideon and his son had given her pause. She took time to consider what it might look like if she too opened hand and heart to strangers in a market square.
She sat down at a table and watched as a guitar clad man conversed with a homeless man over the loud speaker. Sharing a story, a laugh and an encouraging word.
Moving to the beat of the live music as it swayed through the breeze, sweet sweat of the South dripped from her temples. Showing her another way to live.
Thank God for afternoon naps, husbands, and slow, unplanned days away from the usual cares and worries. I went down to Georgia. Where mossy trees sprinkle down from Heaven. In them, I found a sultry, sticky, writer's paradise. No wonder Flannery O'Connor originated from here. Her words enveloping, ringing through the streets of Savannah:
To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.
Seeing how another culture lives, eats, and breathes was a welcome respite from all I take for granted back at home. It was a reminder to be kind and warm. To extend a hand, a friendly smile and engaging entreaty to perfect strangers. An enticement to try new culinary experiences and explore unknown communities. Take some, leave some, embrace new ways of interacting and viewing the world.
What are some of the places you have explored that opened your eyes to a new culture or way of living? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!