Relationships are key to survival

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 9, 2009

After serving a tour during Operation Enduring Freedom and taking care of Marines as a medic in Iraq, I came to the realization that relationships are key to survival. A close friend of mine died in a helicopter crash on that battlefield and many others lost their minds forcing me to take a vow: never neglect people.

However, as the years flew by and my priorities changed, I lost sight of why I cared so much about fellowship. The concept of camaraderie faded away. My civilian environment taught me that the value of life was measured in the quantity of output one could produce for society, steamrolling the idea of relationship. I struggled with living like this for years until recently. My new environment is teaching me that what matters most are the people who surround you.

The Natchez Coffee Company helps foster this relational attitude. The warm smiles and friendly greetings are a stark contrast to the “get in and get out” mentality of most high paced coffee shops found in metropolitan cities. Myra and Yolanda have served me on several occasions and rather than simply saying hello to me, they’ve asked me how I was doing. It wasn’t necessarily a required question that employees had to ask. I knew this because they both waited for an answer. I’m not used to someone actually taking the time to hear me talk!

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It was like clockwork. Before settling at my table, a stranger would begin a conversation with me. Though it usually started off superficially, about the weather and so forth, I somehow ended up talking about my life story. I also heard theirs. How incredible! Things have been so comfortable that I’ve started to meet with a small group of people every Saturday morning discussing life and God over coffee.

The phrase, “How y’all doing?” has also intrigued me. First of all, the accent is wonderful. Secondly, it’s an open invitation to talk life. The place I hear this most is at Natchez Community Hospital, where I work. The medical staff there do not consider healthcare as a mere job. It is a lifestyle where personal life intertwines. The nurses on the second floor not only heal patients through their medical abilities, but also through the giving of their time in conversation. Trust me, the emotional healing of the soul is just as important as the physical healing of the body. Co-workers are actual friends and they know the ins and outs of each other’s lives. I believe that the staff works so well together and patients are being healed because of the value of relationship.

And lastly, the PoBoy Diner has done wonders in my approach to Southern living. Each time I come in, I feel like I know everybody (when I actually don’t). The staff not only serves up some great cooking, they also know how to make an outsider feel welcome.

Some of you may think that such a value is the cause of slower service, gossip or idleness. But in my outside opinion, the act of talking fortifies relationships.

The stronger your relationships are, the better society will be. It is evident that when Natchez says, “How ya’ll doing?” they are actually saying, “I want to be your friend.” Thanks for warming my heart!

Edwin Samson is a missionary temporarily living in Natchez.