The south is known for a lot of things, amazing sweet tea, good barbeque, but have you ever thought about southern hospitality? No, it isn’t one of Ludacris’s albums, well, not in this sense anyway. Southern Hospitality to me is defined as people being willing enough to volunteer their time, homes, churches, etc to the community, or even country.

Tennessee in particular is well known for their southern hospitality, and willingness to volunteer. We’re called the Volunteer State because in the War of 1812 and the Mexican war, we supplied a record number of soldiers, who all willingly donated their lives to help. If you go deep enough into Tennessee, you will find how open our homes, and hearts are. A lot of this has to do with Tennessee’s strong religious views. Many people often volunteer through their churches, so had it not been for those churches, many people would still be in need. People often donate their homes as well.

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Some characteristics of southern hospitality have been described as early as 1835, when Jacob Abbott mentioned the willingness of southerners to provide for strangers. He wrote, “The hospitality of southerners is so profuse, that taverns are but poorly supported. A traveler, with the garb and the manners of a gentleman, finds a welcome at every door. A stranger is riding on horseback through Virginia or Carolina. It is noon. He sees a plantation, surrounded with trees, a little distance from the road. Without hesitation he rides to the door. The gentleman of the house sees his approach and is ready upon the steps. Conversation flows cheeringly, for the southern gentleman has a particular tact in making a guest happy. After dinner you are urged to pass the afternoon and night, and if you are a gentleman in manners and information, your host will be in reality highly gratified by your so doing. Such is the character of southern hospitality”

To apply this to our modern lives, have you ever heard of a church doing Wednesday night meals? Or preparing meals for birthdays, anniversaries, etc? My grandmother’s church isn’t very large at all, and they do this all the time. A man who is very dear to me recently celebrated his 90th birthday. The church prepared a meal for his family, the church members, and anyone else who wanted to attend. This also supports the fact that food is has an enormous part in volunteering, and southern hospitality. People are starving everywhere, especially in foreign countries like Africa.

But did you ever consider that it happens in the United States? An amazing group that I recently discovered is called the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. They distribute to 18 different counties in east Tennessee. Not only do they feed an average of 158,000 people per year, they provide nutritional education to people at-risk for hunger. One key aspect to them is that if a church can’t get food to donate through their local food bank, Second Harvest will give them a tractor trailer load of goods for a minimal delivery fee.

That allows more people to be able to help in their society In the south, volunteering and southern hospitality really go hand-in-hand. People volunteer out of kindness, and wanting to help others. People have been doing this for years, and it all started with one person, who decided kindness is really better than hate. That one person decided to help another lone person in need and their one decision has impacted southerner’s way of life. So yes, Tennessee has proudly earned their name of the Volunteer State.