OK…I will admit that much to the chagrin, I’m certain, of my childhood family and others, I do enjoy country music. Kenny Chesney’s song, “You Had Me From Hello” is one I never tire of. He sings as the recipient; I “sing” about what happens when I am the giver of the word.
As I often walk a 2+ mile trail in the company of many, I find that by the time I get back to my car I have a little repository of stories and connections, even if from a blink of an eye moment. Just this morning, the benefits of saying “Good morning” or “Hi” were bountiful.
There is the person who walks with what may be the effects of a stroke and who sometimes appears to be trying to stay anonymous, hugging the side of the trail…making a point of saying good morning and looking him in the eyes is to see him light up, a smile spreading across his face.
A little girl learning to ride a tricycle and another girl on the other side of the trail practicing on her training wheels, her dad keeping her from veering off the path, grin from ear to ear when told they are peddling just right…the weary parents teaching them and guarding them also seem to relax a little as they endure a ritual of childhood.
After saying hello, I ended up walking in the company of a woman who had her old, partially blind dog in a pet stroller. I was treated to hearing all about his life and how he has the persistence to keep walking the whole trail, no matter how hard, even though he shouldn’t…she lets him walk part way and then puts him in the stroller. It led us to talking about websites that have great animal stories…all in less than five minutes before we parted ways. It made me think about whether I show as much persistence in life as the dog.
I said good morning to a mom pushing a double stroller, also with a dog along, and told her I admired the workout she was getting. She laughed and said she was finding that out (!), and thanked me for acknowledging her.
A couple of people who were going around more than once, as I was today, loved the encouragement of thumbs up or a nod, just as I did in return. When the sweat is really dripping, a hello gives a burst of extra energy.
Greeting an elderly man sitting on a bench with one arm around his dog and saying what a great photograph it would be allowed me a moment of being touched when seeing him turn to his dog with a look of great affection…clearly an loved companion.
It is joyful connection. Even those who give a sense of avoidance but “kind of” glance as we pass seem to shift in their wariness when greeted, sometimes caught off guard but suddenly smiling hello back.
We are easily fearful of reaching out; while I certainly am mindful of where I am and who is around me, the benefits of a smile, a hello, a good morning, a “keep going” far outweigh walking in silence and avoiding the eyes and presence of those in the same space. My soul is fed.
As the day progressed, saying hello and asking how his day had been at PetsMart, the man who waited on me and I got into a conversation about how neither of us can walk by the cat adoption section…too hard to look and not be able to say yes to adding one more to our homes. It was more than simply checking out and swiping my credit card.
I learned that the woman who waited on me at Whole Foods was about to finish her shift and go for a run…perhaps not a big thing, but when I reflected on how many people she must have rung up and bagged groceries for today I could imagine that moving out of the small space of the cash register to the openness of a run would feel glorious. It made me appreciate her work on my behalf a bit more.
I thrive on what I learn about people. I thrive on connection. I thrive on the smiles. I thrive on the mutual enjoyment of acknowledgement; it seems to light up something in us. it does not matter the color, the background, the age, the ability.
I also feel like I have a piece of my father’s presence accompanying me when I greet others. I think of him. He was a master of making people feel acknowledged and welcomed. Not a man of many words, he was definitely a man of hello. Usually, that was exactly right for the moment. A banker, if he did not have a customer at the time, he was known for looking up and/or getting up from his desk and greeting those who came into the bank; when he changed banks customers followed him because of his hospitality.
Maybe that is what it is all about…hospitality and acknowledgement…as needed as many other things in our lives.
“Hello” is a selfish act on my part for it is not about what others receive from my greeting. It is what I receive from them and what they add to my life. As I write, I can still see the faces of those I met today…they are as beautiful as the sunset through the trees.