The week has wrapped up in the Delta and our U Mich-Ole Miss team has started parting ways. I think everyone can agree that although the week had long days and hard work, we learned at least a small part about the community and residents in the Delta. If I had to pick out one aspect of the community that impacted my experience, it was the people. From the team members to the residents of the area, everyone was able to teach me something invaluable about the culture here. As an example that illuminates the how the residents treated me throughout the week, during my first day in the Delta I was walking down the street when I passed this security officer who waved and started chatting to me about where I was from and the likes. I was surprised because I was so use to walking past people I don’t know without as much as a nod and them equally ignoring me. Yet, this man just started chatting to me, no reservations. It was a brief conversation but friendly, curious, and made me feel instantly comfortable and welcomed. That same day I passed him on the street two other times and he welcomed me with a smile and a wave, finally asking if I was following him on the third occurrence with a laugh.
To talk a little bit about what we did, the research was carried out through surveys where residents would come to us to take the survey and usually proceed to eat the dinner we had on chairs throughout the room. One participant and their family struck me the most. All though most of the survey takers were passionate and friendly, this family took time on each question and discussed different answers about community amongst themselves, usually involving friendly banter but produced meaningful answers they felt strongly about and felt confident sharing. After the survey, they got their food and then proceed to come back and eat at my table, talking to me about their profession, community, and lives in general. It was an engaging conversation that I welcomed. We swapped stories of our homes and lives and they even made me laugh despite the long day I had just had.
So how does this culminate in what I learned or took away from the Delta? From the group of people I worked with to the new people I chatted with and met in the community throughout the week, I was able to learn more about the South, the Delta, and most of all the community than I could’ve ever learned about in a book or online. Through conversations like the ones above, I was able to shed a small sliver of light on the sense of community that was present in its residents. That sense was one of friendliness and hopefulness. This hopefulness was one for improvement in the Delta in the future and the belief that it would be better down the road. So as I sing “Hotty Toddy” (hopefully the correct way) on my way back to Michigan, I can say that I come back with a whole new sense of the community that the Delta was able to teach me about.