Just Say Hello :: A (slightly dramatized) Account
I was at a retirement home, called something along the lines of “Shady Forest,” “The Silver Oak,” or “Tree.” I was wearing a dress shirt, a vest and a bow tie that was a little too tight. I was standing in front of a pack (No, not a group. They were a pack. These guys had these smug looks like, See this oak cane I’m holding? What you got? A Latin chorus? For realz?) of 90+ folks, singing in Latin. (Dressed up? Twin Cities Youth Chorale. Tie too tight? It was actually a costume item, because I lost the real one. Latin? That’s just how I roll.)
Aveee, aveee, verum corpus. etc. etc. My voice, as while as the voices of several other similarly dressed children filled the small room. My collar pinched at my neck, and I swallowed nervously. Sweat beaded my brow. Shady Grove, my little love, Shady Grove, I know… Come on now. Almost done. My eyes flitted from my director to the pack of elderly fellows behind. Wende ah Ho, Wende ah ho, wende ya, wende ya…
Finally, done. With a long, satisfied sigh, I stepped down from the platform, beelining it for the hallway. And then I heard a voice behind me. ” Excuse me? Young man?” I froze. My initial thought was to run for the hall, act as if I hadn’t heard. Unfortunately, following my initial thought usually ends up with me stuck, unhappy, or wearing an Argyle sweater. (To the horror of my fashion-knowledgeable mother. I’m sorry, mom. So sorry.)
So I did what I thought might be weird, or uncomfortable. I turned around, and said in my cheeriest voice, “Hello there! I’m Seth.” Turns out that that older lady really did use that cane for walking. She was nice. She said she liked my singing. She smiled at me.
Y’all followin’ me? I said hello. That’s all it took. You know how powerful that one word can be? Hello. Hi there! How are you? People listen. People smile. They like to be greeted, welcomed. It’s one of the easiest things. The most popular conversation starter in America. :-)
And if you know me, you know I’m not afraid of old folks. (Gerontophobe? Afraid, not. :-)) But sometimes, it’s a little weird to be surrounded by people you don’t know, or even worse, in a room with one person you don’t know. Say hello. The weird goes away. Before you know it, you’ll probably be chatting about a new book, or your family, or your bad taste in sweaters.
When was the last time you said hello?