Archive for the ‘Band Top Story’ Category
“WE ARE”…two of the most powerful words, for what you put after them shapes your band. We don’t often enough think about the words we say about our bands, and yet the things we say about bands have such a massive impact on our self-esteem, self-confidence and success. The things we say about bands can either impact us negatively or, if we are smart about the things we say about one another, we have the ability to use our words in a way which can impact our organizations for the positive in significant ways.
So often we say things like “he’s terrible” or “she can’t play that” or “we’re not good enough to beat that band” etc. And so rarely do we say things like “we sounded incredible” or “we just put our best performance out there” or “we rocked it”. We are firm believers that the way we talk about band-mates and to organizations have a massive impact on who we are and how we feel. We genuinely believe that when we say positive things to band members it changes our view of our program and builds our confidence and self-esteem and gives us the courage to go out and try new things and become better.
Here is a list of “WE ARE” phrases to consider saying to your band at rehearsals, events and contests:
- WE ARE happy
- WE ARE capable
- WE ARE smart
- WE ARE open
- WE ARE determined
- WE ARE hardworking
- WE ARE loved
- WE ARE smart looking
- WE ARE successful
- WE ARE awesome
- WE ARE destined for GREATNESS!
Who wouldn’t feel amazing about their bands if they looked in the mirror and said those things each time they come together? Just think how powerful you would feel as you played your pipes and drums; you would be unstoppable!
You may as well try it…after all, what could it hurt?
Hard-work, determination and miles of smiles shinned through on 23 July 2016 for the bands of Wake and District who participated at the inaugural Mike Murphy Memorial indoor pipe band competition in our home town of Raleigh. It was a great day of piping and drumming. Here are our results:
- G5 – overall 2nd place
- G4 – Medley 1st place, MSR 3rd place – overall 2nd place
- G3 – Medley 1st place, MSR 2nd place – overall 1st place
This weekend marked the spectacle of the 61st Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (GMHG) at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC. Although Wake and District has never been formally invited to participate at these games — band members were once again embedded on the mountain – creating and participating in all the shenanigans. The organizers of the GMHG strive to be the premier Scottish Highland games and gathering of Clans, Guests, Families, Sponsors, Patrons and Visitors. Congratulations to our members who competed. They included:
- Joseph Williams: G4 6th Sr. March.
- Dalton Marshall: G3 3rd 6/8 march
- Timothy Hinson: G2 1st 6/8 march, 2nd Piob, 3rd MSR, 6th H/J (G2 2nd place piper of the Day)
- Andrew Kerr: G1 3rd 6/8
- Spirit of the South Quartet: 2nd place
To all our family, friends and fans on the mountain – we hope you had a grand time and have a safe journey home; see you at rehearsal.
What does it mean to be committed to something, whether to a person, a cause, a project, a government, a job, or pipe band? It’s funny how many of the words we use to describe devotion are also used to describe insanity. The word “fan”, for instance, refers to someone who is a devoted admirer of an artist, musician, author, or other creator (or a piece of their work), but it comes from “fanatic”, a maniacal follower of some cause or leader. The guy in line at the Stephen King signing is a fan; the guy who follows him around from signing to signing claiming King killed John Lennon is a fanatic.
Likewise, we use the same word, “committed”, to describe someone’s devotion to a cause or person as we use to describe their incarceration in a mental institution. Is there a similarity? Well, to be committed means to pledge, bind, or oblige one’s self to something: a course of action, a system of beliefs, or indeed a medical treatment facility.
So, is being committed a sort of insanity? Well, no — but certainly there are some similarities between the kind of obsession which leads us to do horrible things to ourselves or others and the kind of obsession that leads us to greatness. We can look at someone like Steve Jobs and see that at work, the single-minded commitment to a vision of how the world should and could work, and the refusal to acknowledge other, “lesser” ways. OK, enough prologue. What is commitment, then?
1. Commitment is passion. Obsessive passion, maybe. Someone who is truly committed to something can’t not do it. You can’t live without accomplishing your cause or being with your significant other. Fulfilling thiscommitment gives you great pleasure — being with the person you love, pushing forward a project you believe in, creating a tiny pocket of betterness in the world, these are deeply satisfying to the person who is committed.
2. Commitment is action. Actions speak louder than words, right? A person who is committed shows their commitment, over and over, in his or her actions. If your actions don’t match your commitment, you simply aren’t committed to it. You may have a belief, a hunch, a preference, a desire, but not a commitment.
3. Commitment is obligation. What separates the truly committed from the rest of us is the way they embrace the crappiest parts of the job, setting their jaw and taking on the work the rest of us wouldn’t dream of. It’s the parent scrubbing puke from the carpet at 4 in the morning, the doting spouse helping their aged partner on and off the toilet, the executive who flies halfway around the room to apologize in person for a badly flubbed marketing campaign, the firefighter who charges into a dangerous fire because he or she hears screaming, the soldier who holds his or her ground while the rest of company flees. You do these things not because they are fun or pleasurable in their own right, but because your commitment demands you do them.
4. Commitment is larger than the self. Commitments are personal, but they’re also about relationships. The committed artist sacrifices everything to express his or her inner vision to the world. The committed lover cares first and foremost for the emotional and physical well-being of his or her partner. The committed performer takes the stage in the service of the audience. The committed activist creates a better world not for him- or herself but for the generations to come. True commitment embraces and engages the world.
5. Commitment is voluntary. Commitment is obligation, yes, but it’s freely chosen obligation. Even the draftee chooses to be a hero in the heat of combat — or not to be. The environmentalist huddling shivering in a cold boat in arctic waters, protecting a pod of whales from a whaling ship, can take refuge in the fact they chose to be there. The parent chooses to have and keep a child, no matter how accidental the pregnancy; the spouse chooses to stay in the marriage; the worker chooses to stay on the job. It is choice which makes it a commitment — without the choice it’s just slavery.
(Ironically, being committed to a mental institution is not voluntary. Oh well…)
When we feel forced into something, when we feel obligations hanging on us like an albatross, when our actions fail to match our beliefs — these are signs we aren’t as committed as maybe we thought we were. Maybe not committed at all. Pay attention to those signs — it’s easy to convince ourselves of a commitment which isn’t really a commitment at all.
As we go about our lives, we can choose which of the wolves we want to feed. We can choose to feed the wolf of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, and all those good things in every moment, or we can choose to feed the bad wolves. We have to remember that it’s not often one choice, one feeding of a wolf or the other, that creates what we see inside ourselves and what we see inside the world. It’s a long history of feeding one wolf over the other. It starts every day.
These wolves live inside us. Though one wolf – say, the good wolf – might at any given point in time be a little bit malnourished, we can always feed it. Though one wolf, the evil wolf, may be a little bit plump because of choices that we’ve made in the past, we can choose today to feed a different wolf.
It often turns out that what we see in the world from other people and from our circumstances is very much correlated with the wolves that we’re feeding inside of us and inside of other people. When we encourage other people, when we feed their good wolves, we see that. We see that in them, and we see that in the people they change, and they tend to want to feed other people’s good wolves. When someone’s bad wolf has been overfed, we tend to see that, and those are the wolves that bite us. Those are the wolves that hurt us, as opposed to those good wolves, which protect us and help us out along the way.
How people treat you is their karma;
how you react is yours.
In some ways, it reminds me of a song called “Flame Turns Blue” by David Gray. The lyric that really catches me is, “I’m in collision with every stone I ever threw…”
I’m in collision with every stone I ever threw or, as we may say in proper English, I’m in collision with every stone I’ve ever thrown. Such a beautiful line. It’s just another way of saying that the energy we put out there in the world, we get back. We throw stones. We get hit by them. We throw out ripples of goodness. Some way or the other, we get hit by those, too.
The funny thing about this is that we don’t always see it come back at the source where we share it. We may smile at somebody today, and tomorrow when we need somebody to smile at us, they smile. In some traditions, they call it “karma.” We can call it all sorts of things, right? I think the more that we feed those good wolves in the world, the more they come back to us.
As you’re going about your days, as you’re going about your weeks, I hope that in those moments in which it seems so much easier to feed the bad wolf, you’ll choose instead to choose the one that you want to win, the good wolf.
We wouldn’t even think about trying to compete with a fireworks display, especially on the Fourth of July. So instead – we will reflect on some words from the 40th President of the United States of America — President Ronald Reagan…
It’s worth remembering that all the celebration of this day is rooted in history. It’s recorded that shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia celebrations took place throughout the land, and many of the former Colonists — they were just starting to call themselves Americans — set off cannons and marched in fife and drum parades.
What a contrast with the sober scene that had taken place a short time earlier in Independence Hall. Fifty-six men came forward to sign the parchment. It was noted at the time that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. And that was more than rhetoric; each of those men knew the penalty for high treason to the Crown. “We must all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin said, “or, assuredly, we will all hang separately.” And John Hancock, it is said, wrote his signature in large script so King George could see it without his spectacles. They were brave. They stayed brave through all the bloodshed of the coming years. Their courage created a nation built on a universal claim to human dignity, on the proposition that every man, woman, and child had a right to a future of freedom.
For just a moment, let us listen to the words again: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Last night when we rededicated Miss Liberty and relit her torch, we reflected on all the millions who came here in search of the dream of freedom inaugurated in Independence Hall. We reflected, too, on their courage in coming great distances and settling in a foreign land and then passing on to their children and their children’s children the hope symbolized in this statue here just behind us: the hope that is America. It is a hope that someday every people and every nation of the world will know the blessings of liberty.
And it’s the hope of millions all around the world. In the last few years, I’ve spoken at Westminster to the mother of Parliaments; at Versailles, where French kings and world leaders have made war and peace. I’ve been to the Vatican in Rome, the Imperial Palace in Japan, and the ancient city of Beijing. I’ve seen the beaches of Normandy and stood again with those boys of Pointe du Hoc, who long ago scaled the heights, and with, at that time, Lisa Zanatta Henn, who was at Omaha Beach for the father she loved, the father who had once dreamed of seeing again the place where he and so many brave others had landed on D-day. But he had died before he could make that trip, and she made it for him. “And, Dad,” she had said, “I’ll always be proud.”
And I’ve seen the successors to these brave men, the young Americans in uniform all over the world, young Americans like you here tonight who man the mighty U.S.S. Kennedy and the Iowa and other ships of the line. I can assure you, you out there who are listening, that these young are like their fathers and their grandfathers, just as willing, just as brave. And we can be just as proud. But our prayer tonight is that the call for their courage will never come. And that it’s important for us, too, to be brave; not so much the bravery of the battlefield, I mean the bravery of brotherhood.
All through our history, our Presidents and leaders have spoken of national unity and warned us that the real obstacle to moving forward the boundaries of freedom, the only permanent danger to the hope that is America, comes from within. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as a kind of familiar exhortation. Yet the truth is that even two of our greatest Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once learned this lesson late in life. They’d worked so closely together in Philadelphia for independence. But once that was gained and a government was formed, something called partisan politics began to get in the way. After a bitter and divisive campaign, Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1800. And the night before Jefferson’s inauguration, Adams slipped away to Boston, disappointed, brokenhearted, and bitter.
For years their estrangement lasted. But then when both had retired, Jefferson at 68 to Monticello and Adams at 76 to Quincy, they began through their letters to speak again to each other. Letters that discussed almost every conceivable subject: gardening, horseback riding, even sneezing as a cure for hiccups; but other subjects as well: the loss of loved ones, the mystery of grief and sorrow, the importance of religion, and of course the last thoughts, the final hopes of two old men, two great patriarchs, for the country that they had helped to found and loved so deeply. “It carries me back,” Jefferson wrote about correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, “to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless . . . we rowed through the storm with heart and hand . . . .” It was their last gift to us, this lesson in brotherhood, in tolerance for each other, this insight into America’s strength as a nation. And when both died on the same day within hours of each other, that date was July 4th, 50 years exactly after that first gift to us, the Declaration of Independence.
My fellow Americans, it falls to us to keep faith with them and all the great Americans of our past. Believe me, if there’s one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for 5\1/2\ years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us — America’s past of which we’re so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country — these things far outweigh what little divides us. And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans.
Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.
My fellow Americans, we’re known around the world as a confident and a happy people. Tonight there’s much to celebrate and many blessings to be grateful for. So while it’s good to talk about serious things, it’s just as important and just as American to have some fun. Now, let’s have some fun — let the celebration begin!
Government is the people’s business, and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid. With all the profound wording of the Constitution, probably the most meaningful words are the first three, “We, the People.”
If you squeeze an orange you will get orange juice. It doesn’t matter who squeezes it, where or when this is done, or what kind of implement is used. If you squeeze an orange, what comes out is orange juice. The same holds true for each of us. When the pressure is on–regardless of when, where, why, or who is inducing the pressure–all that can come out is what genuinely is inside of us.
We are each responsible for what is inside of us. If we choose to be filled with negativity, envy, and bitterness, that is what we will exude. If we are filled with optimism, happiness, hope, that is what we will exude. So how do we make sure we are filled with positive things so that when the pressure times come the best us can come out?
Shayne M. Bowen shared the following story in a talk:
There is a story told of an old Cherokee teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil: he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Feed the positive each day by controlling your thoughts and actions so when life brings the squeeze only good can come out!
Jeffrey Gitomer said “Change is not a four letter word…but often your reaction to it is!” Change is scary..it’s trading the known for the unknown. It’s leaving something behind without knowing if what lies ahead. It’s wondering “Will I like it as much?” “Will it ever be as good as it was?” “What if it’s not?…What then?” And all those thoughts drive feelings of fear and uncertainty. But what if we stopped viewing change as a four letter word? What if instead our thoughts were, “As much as I loved life before I know it is only going to keep getting better.” “I am so excited for this change! What a great adventure this is going to be.” “It’s so awesome to know the best is yet to come!” Man what a difference changing a few thoughts in our heads can make.
Our thoughts control our feelings, therefore if we allow ourselves to think of change as a four letter word then it will be just that. However, if we decide change is something exciting and fabulous we will feel completely different about it – we will embrace change and be excited for it because we know with each change which happens it is taking us somewhere better!
Organizations and individuals who resist change
struggle, fall behind, and ultimately fail.
Think of it like a road trip where you are guaranteed each new exit along the highway will take you to a place more beautiful than the last. Each new exit will introduce you to more and more fabulous people will further enrich and bless your life. Each new exit you explore will teach you more than the last one did. Each new exit you visit will give you more experience and wisdom than you ever had before. With every new exit you are guaranteed the opportunity to become a better person. The highway is our life…and CHANGE is nothing more than arriving at the next exit with it’s great big sign which says “it only gets better from here” … So get out there and enjoy it!
From Amy Rees Anderson — I recently have been dealing with a situation where I became aware that someone has been doing things under false pretenses in an attempt to get personal gain. When I brought these activities to light to those in authority to rectify the situation the person in charge seemed resistant to confront it. He agreed that what this other person had done was wrong, but he seemed to care more about avoiding confrontation then acting with Integrity. He decided it would be easier to try and manipulate others into handling the situation for him so he could avoid being seen as the ‘bad guy’ with this other person, even though handling it was his duty… It was disappointing to say the least. It is never fun to have thought you could respect someone and then learn that’s not the case.
Then today I spent several hours in a conversation with this same person as he tried to tell me that I shouldn’t interpret the false statements that had been intentionally made by this other person as “lies”. That was his way of justifying his own lack willingness to do the right thing. Ironically the very definition of the word “lie” is “an intentionally false statement”….so, yeah….next he tried to talk down to me as if I just wasn’t intelligent enough to grasp his explanations…When I let him know that his justifications weren’t deterring me from standing up for what I knew to be right, he decided to resort to making threats that it would become uncomfortable for other people I cared about if I was to bring the truth to light. I let him know that the people I care about would WANT me to do the right thing – that is WHY I care about them – Because they are people with Integrity! So he could threaten all he wanted but it wouldn’t change what the right thing to do is and it wouldn’t change my willingness to do just that, because right is right, and wrong is wrong, and no matter what else he was trying to call it or how he was trying to justify it, it is what it is. It is clear that he doesn’t understand the concept of Integrity. If he did he would understand that a person of integrity doesn’t do situational ethics.
As I shared in a Forbes article I wrote called “Success will come and go, but integrity is forever” (excerpt of article below):
…Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be.Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.
It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification in the moment but it will never last. I can think of several examples of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates a false perception of the path to success that one should follow. After all, each person in the examples above could have gained the result they wanted in the moment, but unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far reaching consequences. That person has lost their ability to be trusted as a person of integrity, which is the most valuable quality anyone can have in their life. Profit in dollars or power is temporary, but profit in a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity is forever.
A word of advice to those who are striving for a reputation of integrity: Avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not do business with them. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them. Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes two newspapers from the stand when they paid for only one. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the simplest matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts?
It is important to realize that others pay attention to those you have chosen to associate with, and they will inevitably judge your character by the character of your friends. Why is that? It is best explained by a quote my father often says when he is reminding me to be careful of the company I am keeping: “When you lie down with dogs you get fleas.” Inevitably we become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with day to day. If we surround ourselves with people who are dishonest and willing to cut corners to get ahead, then we’ll surely find ourselves following a pattern of first enduring their behavior, then accepting their behavior, and finally adopting their behavior. If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity then surround yourself with people of integrity. (end of excerpt of article. Click here to view the entire article)
Thank heavens for those people of integrity in my life who ARE willing to stand up for what’s right and do the right thing and who support me when I do the same. And thank heavens for being able to recognize when someone doesn’t have integrity and being wise enough to remove them from your life…because nobody in their right mind wants those fleas….
Have a great weekend everyone! And NEVER be afraid of doing the RIGHT THING!
“Learn to be satisfied. It is just as easy as being dissatisfied – and much more pleasant.” – Jacob de Jager
We spend too much of our lives being dissatisfied because we found out there was something just a little bit nicer out there, and not nearly enough time being satisfied with what we have. Don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with winning and wanting nicer things – they motivate us to work harder in order to have them, which is a good thing! But we can’t get so caught up in it that we end up dissatisfied and unhappy in the process.
Someone made the comment to our band manager — you’re never satisfied, are you? His answer: Far from it. From time to time he finds himself lowering expectations, which can be a bad thing. Our constant – Ken McKeveny – wants perfection from us. We owe him and all the musical leaders of the band >> everything we have within us << put it all out there every note, every measure, every tune, every time.
It’s like the thanksgiving table…When you are satisfied…you stop eating. You race to load up and then that’s it. Then you get tired and need to take a rest. Let’s not race to get satisfied, grow weary and stop giving thanks for what we have been given in the first place. Let’s keep wanting more for ourselves so we have a constant and steady growth – remembering why we are feeding ourselves in the first place. Because we are thankful and need to reach for more in order to move on.
None of what we do is easy. Being away from our families, dragging our families with us, the waiting around, the tuning (which is getting easier and faster), the rain, the cracked bagpipes, the cleaning the drums off…and on and on and on. We are grateful and proud of the work of our members (individually and collectively) leading up to and throughout the day in Maryville.
J. Harold Smith stated it best when he said: “Be dissatisfied enough to improve, but satisfied enough to be happy.”
Are you happy?
Southern Hospitality…it’s complicated. Yes, we welcome you. We welcome you to come sit at our supper tables, stay awhile at our bed and breakfasts, and sleep late in our famous hotels. And we’ll give you a smile as big as you’ve ever seen. But abide by our manners, please. And don’t leave early, please. We might be a little offended if you do. Thank you for your kindness. Now, flip the page, and enjoy our look at Southern hospitality in North Carolina. Do it. Please.
A single fact renders pointless all debate about whether to live north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line. You can talk about college basketball or NASCAR or barbecue or grits until the metaphorical cows come home — you’ll alienate as many people as you convince, I’m sure of it. Those are all topics that prompt debate, that profit from debate. But when I moved to North Carolina from Philadelphia, within a week I realized I had come home. My awakening involved soda pop.
In a cozy booth with coworkers, I decided to give myself the treat of a second Diet Pepsi as I lingered over lunch with these newfound friends. The waitress refilled my glass and did an amazing thing — she did not pick up the bill and scrawl in another drink, the way Philadelphia waitresses did to my lunch checks for a decade. I thought I’d found a special restaurant I’d return to for years. That happened to be true, but by the end of the first week of those welcome-to-town lunches, I realized something: That’s just how it works here in the South. You get as many sodas — or iced teas — as you want with lunch. You can get involved in a good conversation, decide the heck with work, and sit there until 3 p.m. And the drinks just keep coming.
To me, that tastes a lot like heaven.
Of course, I soon realized: That’s not heaven; it’s just the perfect expression of Southern hospitality. The endless soda pop refill is “Go on, set a spell” made flesh. The free refill says, “You had enough, Sug? You sure? Lemme just get you a little more. Stick around. Don’t hurry off. Be comfortable. Stay.”
But hospitality has another side, of course, and soon after I moved to the South — 20 years ago, mind you — I experienced that, too. I went to dinner at a nationally known Durham restaurant one evening and emerged four hours later, glassy eyed, with the Northern members of my party delighted: “Now that,” they said, “was Southern hospitality.”
“No,” I said. “That was a hostage drama.” That wasn’t, Welcome. That was, Stick around whether you like it or not; you are going to sit there and claw your way through our food performance and our three different dessert services, and we’ll tell you when you’re full. That wasn’t hospitality — that was showing off. It was manipulation served on a bed of grits. “Oh, no, folks, you ain’t done yet,” that restaurant said. “Stay.”
Stay: that ultimate expression of hospitality, somewhere between request and command, not only the urge to a beloved guest, but also the rebuke to a misbehaving child or dog. In the lunch booth, with the free soda pop and the ceiling fans and the chummy waitress, Southern hospitality is all it’s chalked up to be: It’s 12-molar, 190-proof distilled essence of welcome, and aren’t you sweet? But at the restaurant where you can’t leave until they bring you a bill, and they won’t bring it until they’re good and done with you, it’s about control, not welcome. It’s a little bit more like Grandma’s insistence on red velvet cake and seven-layer cake and chocolate cake after Sunday dinner — but everybody has to make one and bring it, and don’t even think about getting up from the table until you’ve tried all three, and, meanwhile, greens turn to glop on the stove and dressing dries out in the oven and Grandma accidentally lays the potatoes down on the settee, a case of nerves brought on by the strain of all these guests that she demanded come over. I have endured this kind of hospitality in the family of my beloved wife, a native of this state, and I have seen the toll it takes on host and guest alike. “A tyrannical Southern insistence on hospitality” is how David Denby described it in a recent New Yorker review. “Graciousness,” he concluded, “is both armor and a weapon.”
Denby is far from the first to note that Southern hospitality has its dark side. Roy Blount Jr. discussed it in his famous essay “The Lowdown on Southern Hospitality.” “The truth is, irritation is involved in Southern hospitality,” Blount writes. “Nothing … is sweeter than mounting irritation prolongedly held close to the bosom.”
Good point, but I have to ask: That applies to all hospitality, does it not? I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and although I welcome guests and love to share bed, board, and company, I’m usually tired of the visitors almost from the moment they take off their coats. In any case, I’m internally rehearsing my many sacrifices on their behalf and looking forward to when they leave. I think that irritation attends all hospitality, and it highlights the complexity of the human condition rather than anything particularly Southern.
Not so the free soda pop — that is definitely a Southern thing. Seriously — I return to this time after time because it has real meaning to me. I have encouraged people to move to North Carolina for the free soda pop alone. I have grown so familiar with the free refills at some of my favorite haunts that I have been welcomed to go behind the bar and get it myself, like a houseguest finally, after a prolonged stay, no longer waited on but given free rein to the fridge and cupboards. Now that is hospitality.
I came to the South as a journalist, so from the start, I was showing up on people’s porches and doorsteps, imposing on their hospitality, and let me say straightforwardly: That hospitality never failed. I would ask shocking questions about their organ transplants and their murdered children, their strange customs and their perplexing works of art. They would share their stories with me, and we would laugh together, cry together, eat together. I used to drive home from one tidy farm or another, heading back to Raleigh, sun dipping low, and remind myself: Every person I met that day — every person who cooked me hot dogs or brought me cookies from the pot luck or, yes, endlessly refilled my glass — every one of those people probably voted for … for someone for whom I would never vote. But there I went, and they opened their homes and their lives to me, and sent me on my way with not just a good story but, chances are, a plate covered with foil for my wife. Remember this, I would say to myself. This is where you live. This is how people do here.
So, OK, there’s something to this hospitality business. But from where? And since when? If you go to the books — I always go to the books — you quickly learn that like many things perceived as stereotypically Southern, hospitality has a flavor more rural than simply Southern. That is, the roots of this famous hospitality probably stem from the fact that the South, unlike the citified North, was a community of mostly farms, large and small.
In A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins and Charles Pierce Roland say “the cult of Southern hospitality” expressed “a means of relieving the loneliness of those living far from each other.” A new friend once pressed hospitality on me on Malta, the island at the belly button of the Mediterranean. When I suggested I could not possibly be as welcome a guest as he made me seem, he explained: “We live on an island. We wait for people like you.” Loneliness powerfully motivates hospitality. On a more basic level, when it took half a day to get to the neighbors, you’d better get more than a ladle of water and a nod from the porch when you rode up.
On the other hand, Frederick Law Olmsted, who traveled throughout the South before the Civil War and wrote of his experiences, expected to pay 75 cents or more each night for the hospitality he received. Hospitality had become a myth even before then. Jacob Abbott’s 1835New England, and Her Institutions describes a traveler riding “through Virginia or Carolina” who is all but kidnapped for no other reason than for the householder he visits to shower him with hospitality. Abbott claims that such hospitality explains why the taverns of the South were so poor: “so they must continue, as long as Southerners are as free, and generous, and open-hearted as they now are.” Apocryphal stories abounded of plantation owners who had slaves waylay strangers into their clutches, the better to demonstrate hospitality. The slaves, meanwhile, presumably knew what it felt like to be required to stay rather longer than they might have wished.
The competitive hospitality macho of, say, the Twelve Oaks barbecue in Gone with the Wind is long gone, and with it the perceived need to try to dress up the overzealous hospitality of slavery. The “cult of hospitality,” however, remains. As late as 1972, Simkins and Roland explained that in the Old South “the forests, the fields, and the streams gave abundantly of their produce,” and even a small Southern farm encouraged hospitality by providing its owner with “nearly all the vegetables known to the American housekeeper of the twentieth century.” In some ways that seems to predict the modern Southern gardener creeping to the neighbor’s door in dark of night to “hospitably” abandon a bushel of excess zucchini. More important, of course, it seems highly optimistic, as does their claim that frugality was unnecessary because “everything was plentiful and inexpensive.” On the other hand, it seems reasonable that “vegetables and eggs were perishable” — every Carolina child less than a couple of generations from the fields knows that pound cake was just a way to find a way to store a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Still, with hungry family and farmhands — to say nothing of slaves — it seems unlikely that farmers were inveigling unwary passersby to their overburdened groaning boards just to avoid throwing away good food.
Whatever its origins and however extreme its exaggerations, only a fool would claim that hospitality has vanished from the modern South. If you think I was thrilled when I first discovered the Miracle of the Endless Soda Pop, I only wish you could have seen me at my first NASCAR race, wandering the infield at Charlotte Motor Speedway from grill to grill, from cooler to cooler, getting fuller and more hospitable with every step. One almost had to duck to avoid the constantly proffered beer, the beckoning burger or barbecue. And if the cries at bikini-clad women in the infield strained propriety, nobody who has walked the infield trails can deny that in the face of such rudeness many a young woman has been moved nonetheless to show her … hospitality.
An even greater modern expression of Southern hospitality comes at the end of a pickup tailgate in the parking lot around, say, Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh any time after 10 a.m. on a home Saturday in the fall (although the stadium could just as easily be Dowdy-Ficklen in Greenville, or Kidd Brewer in Boone; this tradition spreads over the state like red clay runoff from a construction site). In these pregame parking rituals, that antebellum competitive hospitality has returned: Graciousness, Denby said, is both armor and weapon. The clang of battle rings, with SUVs rocking cookware that would make the chef at that restaurant that once held me hostage weep with envy. And high-end bourbon whiskey? You don’t even have to bring your own cup. These people want you to have a good time — and to admit how much better their Bloody Mary or barbecue sauce is than the one across the lane.
Yes, graciousness is armor and weapon. But it’s also, simply, gracious. Southern hospitality may have started because Southerners were a rural people, and it may have codified into a fierce code and a laughable myth — how many steps from Scarlett to Clampett? It may cover our greatest sins and enable our most manipulative behaviors. But it also lets us, as a group, agree on something. Down here, in the South, we’re nice to each other. We’re nice to whoever shows up. We share; we’ve got enough. Stick around and enjoy a little more. Don’t hurry off. Sure, you’re a Yankee, but here you are, and here we are, and have a little more soda pop, and tell me something I don’t know yet. Be with us — be one of us. Be comfortable.
We’re glad you’re here.
From Our State — Scott Huler’s articles appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, and Backpacker and Fortune magazines. He has written several books, including his most recent, On the Grid: A Plot of Land, an Average Neighborhood and the Systems that make Our World Work. He served as the 2011 Piedmont Laureate and lives in Raleigh with his wife and two children. Scott’s most recent story forOur State was “The Space to Improvise” (April 2012).