A dear friend of mine, who is a regular topic of discussion on my blog, is someone I refer to as “Southern Belle”. I’ve written of her charm and syrupy sweetness, her expectation for always being proper (said with a heavy lilt) and down home hospitality that could only be executed by a true southern belle. Though Mississippi bred, this woman could be the face for the entire Bible Belt. Strong Christian, fierce mama, devoted wife, and loyal friend.
With these obvious attributes, she is an anomaly to me. She puts up with my overt staring or when I remain silent as I try to take in the world that she comes from. Whenever I spend time with her, I feel as though I should have ‘Yankee’ stamped on my forehead, but she puts up with me. When I don’t understand how half of a word can be dropped off in pronunciation, she translates for me. She shares stories that leave me speechless, but thinking about them for days.
One such story was when she called me up about a recent trip to TJ-Max, a retail store. She was returning some clothes that her girls had rejected, and as Southern Belle does with everyone, she started up a conversation by asking, “And how are you doing today?” Now, you have to imagine her big, baby blue eyes, long, strawberry blonde hair, and petite frame that appears taller because of her commanding voice. When she asks you a question, she’s genuinely interested in getting an answer. And she will wait for a response, the more lengthy the better.
The salesperson did not give the typical “fine,” that we all mumble whether or not it’s true. She looked at Southern Belle and responded, “I am blessed and highly favored.”
Right then, this woman had Southern Belle hooked. That was the single best answer she had ever heard. It was 10:30 in the morning and there was no one else in the store. Southern Belle spent the next fifteen minutes standing at the check-out, talking to this woman about her faith.
The sales associate, earning little more than minimum wage, confessed what a terrible day she was having but spoke of how no matter what bad things were going on in her life, she always tried to remember how blessed she was. She then added, “We are the only thing made in God’s image, so I know that I am also highly favored. Whenever anybody asks me how I am, I always respond, “I am blessed and highly favored.”
Those words are an affirmation, a reminder of who she is. They are a proclamation of what she expected to receive in life.
But more importantly, they are a prayer and spoken gratitude that goes up to the heavens and also out to the world.
What if we all went about our day repeating this to every casual, “Hey, how are ya?” Think of how astonished the recipient would be when you announce, “I am blessed and highly favored.” In our rushed and stressful lives, we rarely stop to acknowledge what is good. This woman stopped Southern Belle and gave her food for thought, which she in turn shared with others.
What I did not tell Southern Belle was that I had been at that store as they were opening the doors to return something as well. We had missed each other by twenty minutes. I knew of the sales clerk she was talking about. I remember her looking tired and said little. I know that I did not greet her and ask how she was doing. I simply put down my purchases and presented my receipt.
I missed an opportunity to connect with a stranger that would have changed my day and my entire outlook.
However, thanks to Southern Belle, ask me how I am now and I’ll tell you…
I am blessed and highly favored.