Monday, June 20, 2011

Y'all Come

Growing up in the southern part of the USA and in Texas specificially, I found it natural to use the word "Y'all" and did not know until I was grown that this word was not used everywhere around the world.  I figured that if we used it here, then people everywhere must speak the same way as we did.  When I was growing up and began traveling to other parts of the world, I found that others substituted other words to take the place of "Y'all".  Some said "You guys" and others said "You'ens" and then some did not say anything at all, leaving out a word that was directed at more than one person at a time.  They either did not direct comments to others or they said the specific names of persons. 

The word "Y'all" is an inclusive pronoun.  It includes all those within hearing of the speaker.  It may be intended for a specific group being addressed or may include all persons.  "Y'all are all invited to come by later and have a bite to eat."  "Did y'all hear about the fire north of Houston?"  In both of these cases, more than one person is being addressed or the speaker wants to include others who may not be present but may have indeed been privy to what the speaker is asking about.

The word "Y'all" includes all possible listeners at times when used in public speaking.  A southern speaker who uses "Y'all" wants to be sure that all persons within earshot knows that he/she is included in what is being said.  "Y'all have to try that new restaurant that just opened."  The speaker wants all listening to know that the new restaurant is indeed a good one and that everyone should go there if all listening want to enjoy a good meal. 

"Y'all" is inclusive and no one is left out based upon specific criteria such as gender, sexual orientation, race, political persuasion, or any other factor.  Anyone who hears the word spoken is included.  The word "Y'all speaks of hospitality, of inclusion, of everyone being invited. 

There was a country music song back in the 1950s-60s called "Y'all come."  It was a country invitation given for neighbors to visit each other when they could.  "Y'all come, y'all come, you all come to see us when you can.  Y'all come, y'all come, you all come and see you now and then."  The song was a lively one that encouraged people visiting one another, as people did on a regular basis in that era.  It was not unusual for neighbors to drop in on one another on a Sunday afternoon or one evening and just visit and have coffee and the kids would play while the adults talked.  There was a standing invitation for people to visit one another and being together was encouraged. 

That is what we call "hospitality".  Encouraging others to feel included and welcomed is part of the Christian tradition.  It is part of the Middle Eastern tradition too.  People who were traveling across the desert had a standing invitation to stop at a tent for a meal or to spend a night because distances were great between villages and the desert was a dangerous place to be all alone in the night.  People welcomed one another in the spirit of hospitality because they knew that one day they would need the same welcome extended to them.  A welcome was given to strangers as well as friends because all travelers faced a common plight as they journeyed along. 

We want to be welcoming to all in the United Church of Christ.  In fact, our official motto is, "No matter who you are or where you are on the journey of life, you have a home in the United Church of Christ."  We want to extend that "Y'all come" spirit to all persons and make them feel welcomed to our churches.  Some are critical when we include all persons.  They do not think that a welcome should be extended to all persons but when Jesus was inviting all persons to come to him, he only set one criteria for inclusion in his family, that you be tired.  "Come unto me all you that are weary and I will give you rest."  There are a lot of tired people in the world and they come in every variety.  Those who are weary of the load that life places upon us are invited to come and rest and receive the cup of cold water that we can give them in the name of Christ.  That cup of water is given to all freely and everyone is invited to drink. 

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