It was a typical day on a Saturday at our neighborhood post office. They close at noon. I arrived at 11:40 with what I thought was plenty of time to mail the package of meditation CDs someone had ordered.
The place was packed. I walked up to the red ticket holder and pulled a ticket. It said 46. They had just called 30. I was going to be there for a while. The good news was that I didn’t have a place to be, so there was no stress in my waiting.
Everyone stood in their little silos, not making eye contact, no smiles, just a look of being trapped to wait.
I stood at the back since my number would not be called any time soon. Behind me a very perky, sing songy voice said, “Hello!”
I looked down and it was a little blond girl decked out in an adorable outfit all coordinated in pink and blue.
“Hello!” I responded in return. Her parents were with her and were obviously used to her introductions.
I told her how much I liked her outfit. Then she started describing what was on her tee-shirt, a gumball machine with candy inside.
She said, “I’m Brittany.” I said, “I’m Jackie.”
We bantered back and forth until they called their number.
Little Brittany made my day with just that simple hello.
If You Want to Hear Hello, Get a Dog
For the last eighteen years we’ve had a dog. Duffy was my doggy soul-mate, a golden retriever with a heart of gold. He lived to be a mere ten years old.
Wilson followed. He was a Labrador retriever, a rescue. We called him J.D. (juvenile delinquent) because he was always getting into things he shouldn’t. He also lived to just ten years old.
They were big dogs and required lots of exercise. We used to walk them around our neighborhood. Without fail, people wanted to meet them, pet them, say hello to them.
Sometimes we would get, “Hello puppy,” with them totally ignoring us. At least they said hello.
Very rarely do we have people say hello on our walks anymore. Especially if they have a dog or dogs. They take a wide berth around us as if to say, “Oh, these aren’t dog people,” since we don’t have a dog. Part of that is out of respect I believe because some people are afraid of dogs – sad for them.
Too Busy and Living in Silos to Say Hello
I grew up in the 1950’s on a quiet street in a neighborhood where almost every parent was the same age with children the same age.
There were no video games or thousands of channels on television. We all played together outside. On the block, the families knew each other’s names.
No one had a garage that you could drive into and not be seen. It was obvious when you came and went.
Where my husband grew up, all the backyards were connected. There were no fences. The adults would congregate in someone’s backyard on a Friday evening for cocktails.
When I married Robert, I moved into his house. It was on a busy street. We shared a driveway with our neighbor. Had we not, I’m not sure we would have gotten to know him.
We helped each other, watched out for packages being delivered, or watered plants when we were out of town.
We’ve just moved to a new home on a quiet dead-end street. It was a rough winter, so hardly anyone was out. So far, we’ve met ten of our neighbors. When the weather permits, we plan to have an open house to get to know everyone.
Brittany reminded me of my mother. For some reason, she was a kid magnet. Wherever we went, to a grocery store, doctor’s, office, or restaurant, my mother would strike up a conversation with a child.
My mother was a beacon of light. Her British accent didn’t hurt. People were entranced whenever she spoke. She also ate up the attention, so it was a win/win.
But she always said hello to people and asked their name from cashiers to CEO’s.
We Respond in Tragedies, Why Not in a Little Hello?
If someone had fainted or a fire broke out in the post office that day, I’m certain that people would have sprung into action to help. It’s been proven so many times on the nightly news with shootings and natural disasters.
But just to make that small connection of hello?
What is it? Have we become so guarded or afraid? Or are we just so unaware and self-absorbed?
I know that I long to hear that little word, hi or hello. For me, it means that we are all connected. It’s a response to being in community. We forget that no one is getting out of here alive. We’re all in this together.
Learning from a Hello Master
We were invited by our friends, Jim and Liz McCain, to spend time with them at their home in Idaho.
Jim recently retired from working in the travel industry for decades. Fun and outgoing, Jim converses with almost everyone he meets. His personality is infectious.
On a hike to view the Grand Tetons, I commented on how people don’t say hello, especially young people with noses in their phones. He vehemently denied that was true and said, “You just need to be friendly. Watch.”
As some younger folks were coming down the mountain, he would say, “How’s it going?” They went from looking down or away to lighting up with a smile and a response. Then he turned to me and said, “See?” See indeed.
It reminded me of Proverbs 18:24: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.”
I found myself being guilty of not making the effort in a simple hello.
So, have we stopped saying hello? After spending time with Jim, I’ll change my yes to a no. I’ll also be mindful that if I want to hear hello, it may be up to me to first say hello.
What’s been your experience? I’d love for you to share it in the comment section below.
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