On Second Thought: You must be from North Carolina

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2024

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By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

For the past 12 weeks, my daughter has been part of a medical research trial in Philadelphia looking at the effects of exercise and a vitamin supplement on her rare disease.

For 12 weeks, she has logged cardio workouts on the bike, and strength workouts with bands, and worn a heart monitor and glucose monitor and Fitbit, all to give the researchers the data they needed for this study. And as a treat for her hard work and perseverance, my husband and I decided to take the whole family to New York City at the conclusion of her trial.

Since we would already be in Philadelphia, we reasoned that a quick trip up to New York for a few days would be just the thing. None of our children had ever been there before, and all were very excited at the prospect of spending a few days in the “big city.” Our kids each made lists of things they wanted to do and see while we were there: Broadway plays, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the World Trade Center, the list went on and on. And for three days, we did our very best to cover the city and see it all. And yet, with all our planning, there was one thing we didn’t quite take into account — the heat.

While we were in New York, the temperatures were soaring. Posted temperatures each day were in the upper 80s, but with all the pavement and large buildings in the city, the feels like temperatures were actually closer to 100. Not wanting anyone to get dehydrated, we made sure to take frequent stops for water breaks and found every shady spot available to stand, and yet, we were still hot. On our very first day, 15,000 steps into our adventure, miles away from our car, sweat dripping down our faces, bellies grumbling because it was well past lunchtime, we looked for a clean place to stop.

By this point, we weren’t picky. We just wanted somewhere to sit with air conditioning, clean bathrooms and plenty of water — a place to recharge. We turned into the first restaurant we saw and instantly hit the jackpot. It wasn’t crowded, the air conditioner was going at full blast, and the host was quick to seat us. As we walked back to our table, I chatted with the host. We talked about the heat and the sights we had seen that morning, and then the host asked where we were from. “North Carolina,” I exclaimed proudly. And the host said, “I knew it!” Was it my accent? Did I sound particularly Southern? Actually, no. The host went on to say, “Only people from North Carolina are this nice and friendly. They’ve got that Southern hospitality thing down. I just knew you had to be from there!” 

Imagine that, out of all the 50 states, this man could narrow down my home based on how I acted.

We went on to have a fabulous lunch. Everyone in the restaurant was so kind and welcoming. We made friends with not only the host, but the wait staff and entire restaurant. Yet, as we left, back out into the heat for more sightseeing, I couldn’t help but think about North Carolina and being known for our hospitality. In a city like New York, at a restaurant that probably attracts tourists from all 50 states and even more countries, how amazing that our state is known for its kindness. And the more I thought about this, the more I wondered, not just about North Carolinians, but about Christians, what are we known for? As we walked through the streets of New York, we passed people of every race and religion, and I wondered, could that same host from the restaurant pick out a Christian from the crowd? If North Carolinians are known for their friendliness and hospitality, what are Christians known for?

In John 13, shortly before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus gave his disciples some parting wisdom. Knowing He would only be with them for a short while longer, Jesus said, “A new command I give you, love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) But that’s not all. Jesus went on to say, “If you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.” (John 13:35) Love. It’s as simple as that. As Christians, Jesus said we should be known for our love. We should strive to love others who are different than us, strive to love others who are sometimes hard to love, strive to love our enemies, strive to love. How amazing the world would be if everyone knew we were followers of Christ just because of how we loved? Being known for Southern hospitality and charm is nice, but if you ask me, being known for your love is the real gold standard, and that’s what we should really be striving for each and every day.