Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Heart of Hospitality.

I know that we tend to post rather on the humorous side of things, but this time I would like to break with tradition and post on something that has been much on my mind lately. This is the thought, the idea, the very essence of the very hospitality and kind thoughtfulness that is often spoken of in the South. And the place I have noticed it most is, to me, seemingly the most unlikely. At a Publix grocery store in the retirement city of Florida. Now generally I do not do the grocery shopping at Publix, so this is probably why I never cease to wonder at this, but I am getting ahead of myself...

So yes, normally when I go grocery shopping I prefer to have as little interaction with strangers as is possible, or desirable. So going shopping at Walmart is all fine and dandy with me. No offers to help me with my groceries, or heart felt "Is there any way I can help you?" with a genuine smile to grace the face of the willing associate. At Walmart it's a get in, get out ordeal that really doesn't leave me with anything other than a sigh of relief to be done with the grocery shopping for the day, knowing I'll most likely have to go back tomorrow (because I can ,never, ever manage to remember everything we need even with a list).

But now let's cross the street. Walmart's rival stands there, tall and glorious, surrounded by stately trees spaced throughout the parking lot. Having graced our town a good deal longer than the Walmart next to it, it's still a favorite here and about. What makes it such a hometown favorite? The buy one get two free sales, perhaps? They don't have those too often... so I doubt that would be the key. Is it the everyday prices then? Uh, well.... Walmart definitely rivals them in that... so I highly doubt that. And this I have found to be the key. Once you've gotten to the front, chosen the line with the least miles to stand in, and finally made it to the cashier, you aren't greeted with a monotone "Hello, welcome to -----". Rather you are greeted with a genuine "Hello! Did you find everything you need? Anything I can help you with?". As you are walking out the bagboys (which is like.... haha... ummm.... a loose way to use that phrase, but stick with me and you'll see why)sincerly ask you, "Do you need help getting to your car? Can I assist you with your groceries?".

Now, you may ask (if you're still reading... yes, I know this is may seem like incredible rambling [and probably is] but there is a point), "What's the deal? It's just a store with nice service." Yes, that's true, it is a store with nice service. But beyond that... it's the people. The difference wasn't the store, the prices, the sales, it was the people. And the difference in the people was... age. The people that worked at Walmart were younger... teens, early 20's and 30's. There were few elderly that worked there. But at Publix the staff was made up of... well... old people. And that is what made it so extrordinary to me. These old ladies greeting you with their smiles, asking you how your day went, and taking the time to make you feel special. These old men who really probably shouldn't be lifting all those milk jugs and bags of cans are always willing to lend a helping hand to those around them. And I pondered (oh, I really love that word, by the way)over it for days. I couldn't figure it out. Why was it that it was the elderly that were so eager to serve, when the youth were doing it out of necessity? I still don't know the secret, but my conclusion is this... they know something we don't. They know that it is a joy to serve others with an excitement about you. They know that life is short. They were raised to "ask not what others can do for you, but ask what you can do for others". They know that it is more blessed to give than to recieve. And I cannot and do not want to believe that the hospitality that has so characterized the South in the past is now dying down. But if the youth of today can't see this wonderful concept now, how can it stay alive?


  1. *Applause* haha good job Kaitland;)

  2. Wow, Kait. Your writing style is wonderful! (though I believe I see the influence of a certain blogger I introduced you to. ;) =P

    Haha, where I live, if you want someone to carry your groceries, you go to what's known as the "old people" store. =D I stick with Walmart.

  3. Hehe, you picked up on that, did you? I will admit, yes, I was influenced. I did try to keep it completely serious, but I don't think I could have if I wanted to, haha.

    So is it the old people that carry the groceries, or the old people that have them carried?

    (I stick to Walmart, too, but you can buy natural milk at Publix for tons cheaper. I long for the good old days of raw milk... to get that in Florida you have to buy it black market. Yes... we have done it. *runs and hides* ;) )

  4. I hope you don't mind guests leaving comments...(:

    I really enjoyed your article. Do you live in a small town? In my town (Houston, TX area) Wal Mart doesn't seem to hire teenagers at all. Just about all the workers are middle-aged and older, and they hardly even smile at customers. Our regular grocery store is where all the young people work, and while they're not super friendly either, I think they're friendlier than the older people who work there and at Wal Mart. And they always offer to carry our groceries :)

  5. We welcome guest comments, Andrea!

    I do live in a small town. Now, this is my speculating here, but since this is mostly a retirement area (well the town just like, 3 minutes drive is), I think they have learned to serve with a cheerful heart as they would want to be served. Many of these elderly rely on each other in the areas they fall short. There aren't a whole lot of young people here about, and they willingly do as they would want done unto them should they need the assistance of another person.

    Just my speculating, of course, but it's still something we could all learn from... the cheerful lending of a hand, the genuine offer of a smile; it can change a day... sometimes a life (no seriously....).