A Mother and her Two Daughters

24 March 2010

The great Southern Tradition of Comforting The Sick

Many years ago my mother drove a big black Lincoln Continental.  It seemed like it was as long as a Greyhound bus, but, at the time (1980s) it was the perfect car for an incredibly successful real estate agent.  A client jokingly told her one evening, “Georgia, I love it when you stop by the house.  Our neighbors always think that someone has died, the Hearst has arrived, and they all bring us food.” 

We southerners are known for our hospitable treatment of visitors and friends, especially in times of despair or crisis. Although few can explain the Southern hospitality phenomena, few would ever deny its existence.

Case #1:  At one time, my friends Grant & Rebecca left Little Rock and moved to Colorado for a time.  They both had good jobs and worked with an army of people.  You would have to know them to understand that these folks are “instant friend makers” who are filled with kindness and caring for others.  For goodness sakes, Rebecca is even from Texas!!  While there, they gave birth to their first baby.  Before and after Sarah’s birth, those folks in Denver had one piddly office baby shower. And when Rebecca returned to work, there were a few who asked to see a photograph. 

What??  How dreadful for them!  In the South, the arrival of a newborn means several baby showers, flowers, coordinated food deliveries, more gifts, and several home visits to “Oooo & Gooo” over the tiny one.  Well-wishers might even arrange for little extras, such as a gift certificate for a “New Mom” Massage, or a gaggle of friends helping with the endless baby laundry.  In the South, we think of it all. 

Case #2:  My caretaker Tim is a native of Milwaukee, WI. Attending law school in Chicago, then some time practicing law in San Francisco.  Throughout the past month, he has been marveled at the amount of food and flowers and visits and other acts of kindness from friends.  After moving to Arkansas in the 1990s, his mother, who still lived in Wisconsin, passed away.  He shared with me one night . . .

“My office colleagues and neighbors began to call with offers of food.  I didn’t understand.  We had food, and plenty of it to feed our family.” 

I asked him the loaded question:  In Milwaukee, how would your friends offer their personal condolences to you.  Tim said, “They would call you up and offer to buy you a beer.”  Hmmmmm . . . a beer, you say? 

All the more reason that it’s great to live here where hospitality and helpfulness are a natural part of the Southern experience.  In our part of the country, there are no strangers. 

“You sick, or new to the neighborhood?  Well, food is on the way.” 

“Lost your cell phone?  Here, use mine.” 

“Having a bad day.  Here’s a big ole hug for ya.” 

Just last night, my friend Jordan stopped by with a bowl of Caramel & Pecan ice cream along with some camellia blooms from his own garden.  My colleague Jennifer wants to stop by and add some color to a few front yard flowerpots. Now both of those rank as total TENS on the southern hospitality scale.

From Arkansas native Shirley Abbot’s book, Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South:
"The southern courtesy was not to invite but to go.  People just showed up and were always made welcome. To stay less than an hour was an insult, and there was always a meal.  And nobody was ever let out of the house without the goodbye ritual, which could take up to three hours"

Today I feel very blessed to live in the South, and to have so many great friends who live by the traditions of Southern Hospitality.  Many thanks ya’ll!  You are certainly making life more enjoyable and colorful. 

My physical update:  Chemo #2 seems to be going rather smooth.  I’ve been extraordinarily tired today but the nausea medicine seems to be working well.  I’m not flirting with disaster so I’m staying on a rather bland diet.  All seems to be going rather well today, including these glorious naps.  My sweet Abbey Rose has been the perfect nap partner too.  


  1. Stacy, I had the most vivid dream two nights ago that you and I met for coffee; the location was not clear. During our conversation, you stopped and suddenly broke the news to me that you had cancer, though I couldn't recall from the dream what type of cancer. The dream was overwhelmingly real, and I've thought about it constantly. Then, last night, I logged onto Facebook on my computer at home, which I rarely do anymore, and looked at your profile page that led me here to learn that you were diagnosed with breast cancer in February. I was astonished.

    To me, it's a message that God clearly wanted me to get in touch with you! I am slowly catching up with your journey through your wonderful blog and feel in my spirit that I need to share this story with you.

    As the marketing coordinator for White County Medical Center in Searcy, I have been writing a lot about the Cancer Center that the hospital, in collaboration with CARTI, RAPA and White County Oncology is about to build. One of my most recent interviews was with an exceptional lady who is a recent survivor of breast cancer. She talked candidly about her experiences and emotions throughout the entire journey and shared this story with me.

    How to Part Your Hair with Attitude

    A lady woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed that she had only three hairs on her head. “Well, she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did, and she had a wonderful day.

    The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmmm,” she said. “I think I’ll part my hair in the middle today.” So she did, and she had a great day.

    The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said, “I think I’ll wear my hair in a ponytail.” So she did, and she had a grand day.

    The next day, she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Yea,” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today.”

    Attitude is everything!

    -Author unknown

    You, Allyson and Anna-Lee will be in my prayers daily...I know you have a courage to fight and that you're tough. I pray God will give your body strength and that the medicines will rid your body of every single cancer cell.

    Lots of love,

    Erica Marshall Goodwin

  2. I can post about the Sells and Southern hospitality. I was devastated by the sudden and untimely death of my brother which I thought left me without any adult family members. I was wrong. The Sells Family became mine. There was the beautiful celebration of his life at the Sell's house and the folded check in my hand to help out with the funeral until I could put myself back together again. I felt like Humpty Dumpty, but the Sells helped to "put me back together again". For the Sells, Southern hospitality is food, and caring and most of all, love. Stacy, you are getting the love and kindness that you have given to others.

    Love, Carol


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