The speaking tradition. For those of you from my alma matter, it was one of our most loved things about Washington and Lee University. And I appreciate it today more than ever. I lived in two houses in Virginia where I never met the neighbors until the day I moved out. They came over to greet me because they felt bad never having introduced themselves. Then there were the days of going jogging when varying neighbors knew my dog Maggie’s name but didn’t know mine. I had my own world and my own life, and so did they - and we didn’t cross paths if we didn’t have to.
There was a time when community meant the people around you - having block parties and neighborhood picnics. Today’s definition of community means something different. It means when you’re waiting for an airplane you can pretend that the people around you don’t exist by picking up your cellphone and talking louder to a friend in Seattle than you would if he were sitting next to you. If you keep talking to Mr. Seattle right up until you board the plane, then you can turn on your TV or computer, put in your earplugs, or simply close your eyes just to show how much you don’t care about the environment in which you’re sitting. It’s sad, really. If there are only a few degrees of separation from most everyone in the world, then how would we ever know if we won’t talk to the person next to us?
It’s a heartwarming feeling to be in on Grand Turk where 70% of the people you pass on the street say hello even though they don’t know you. Black, white, Hispanic and otherwise.
Two days ago I spent an extra 10-minutes chatting with the cashier in one of the local grocery stores. She introduced herself to me and then introduced me to another gentleman standing at the counter - turns out he’s the father of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands. That was an exciting encounter. And if I hadn’t taken the time to talk to her, I never would have met them.
And this morning, a woman approached me in another grocery store knowing exactly who I was and welcoming me to Grand Turk. We chatted for about five minutes and she introduced herself as Amanda telling me she has an eight-year-old daughter. She was so pleasant. I asked her where she lives on the island and she responded saying, “I’m the Governor’s wife.” I sort of choked. She then told me she’s been wanting to have our family over and is really excited that we have come to Grand Turk. The Governor’s wife? Where else would something like this happen. And if she hadn’t taken the time to make me feel truly welcome, I probably wouldn’t have been moved enough to want to write about this wonderful speaking tradition that helps endear this community to me.
What a great experience. What a great island. What a great community.