Thursday, January 21, 2010

MEME 5: Greet People

Let me share with you what I have been learning...

The people whom I’ve seen succeed in life have always been cheerful and hopeful people who went about their business with a smile on their faces.

~Charles Kingsley

When I was at university, there was a woman I would see on campus and around the downtown area who embodied the word "radiant". She was shorter than average, and a little rounder than average, and her clothing was unexceptional.  She was not exceptionally beautiful - but she carried herself with great dignity.  Now - when I say "dignity" - what image comes to mind?  That's not what I mean.  Nothing stuffy or snooty.  Quite the opposite.

What set her apart was that she, in some strange way that was not intrusive or freakish, somehow managed to "greet" every single person she encountered with a smile.  She always looked at the people that she met on the street, and she was always smiling.  If she caught your eye, the smile would deepen just slightly - and for that one micro-milli-second - I felt "greeted by joy".  With the brevity and delicacy of the kiss of butterfly wings on the soul.  A smile from a stranger. An acknowledgement. You exist - I see you - and there is joy that you - stranger - are part of my world.

Yes I know that is my subjective interpretation of her action.  Don't spoil it for me.

She seemed quite sane - normal - studious.  She never engaged strangers in conversation, at least not that I could tell.  She had no agenda.  I often wondered if she was the child of missionaries, someone who grew up in a foreign culture where everyone assumed that the stranger in the village was a friend that you hadn't met yet.  Or perhaps she was waiting for someone to recognize her as a Divine Being - an angel in burkenstocks and wooly socks with a backpack that contained no apparent rocks of distress only a joyful countenance for sharing.

Fast Forward 30 years.

Jacinthe has been landscaping our front yard over the past two years - she has a green thumb and a green plan and a lot of seeds and bulbs and a roto-tiller and shovel and knows how to use them.  Don't walk on her grass, man.  She's tearing it up and planting pretty things that are not our culturally acceptable invasive species.  Her own green earth rebellion against sub-herb-bia.

Almost immediately upon becoming a "lawn fixer fixture" - out in the front yard every evening and most weekends - people that we had seen pass with indifference by our house for years started to say hello.  After a few passes by over the weeks, and a few hello's - they would start to stop and chat a bit - offer some advice - pay a compliment - ask a question.  Pause for a moment of connection.

It took a greeting - given and received - to break the ice.  It felt good.  It brought a little bit of the best parts of small town living back (given that both Jacinthe and I grew up in small towns).

Let's start with the premise that 99.9% of the people in my neighborhood are not going to do me any harm. They are my neighbors - next door - across the street - down the back lane.  I see them regularly - occasionally - daily - depending on my routine.  What bad thing could happen?  There was that one wacko that got taken away for hitting his wife - and the party boys - but in recent years, everyone has been pretty sane.  Not like they are going to hurt me for saying "hi".

Okay - they can ignore me. Maybe the first time.  Still costs nothing to say it again.  To acknowledge their presence. To see the different faces of the Divine as they walk - stroll - bike - rollerblade - skateboard - amble - ramble - or hopscotch past your doorstep.  I live in the first ring of suburbs outside the inner city.  If you live get your mail from a super-mail-box, you can say hi to people at the communal mail box in your apartment building. Or to the regular face behind the counter at the Red River Co-op gas station.  To the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street , or on your habitual beat each day.

What does how I greet my nearest and dearest say about the quality of our connections?  There's the casual passing by greeting, the drive by hi - the absent minded how-are-ya before we get down to business and the reason for meeting. We all - everyone - hate it hate it hate it when someone asks us how we are and moves on with the conversation without actually listening to the answer.  Not saying we have to get all sloppy and clingy and mushy and emotional - but I want to become more mindful - to pay attention -and to make sure that all is indeed well before moving on to the next topic of conversation.  Truly, the pause that refreshes.

There are all kinds of parables and anecdotes and legends about the Divine showing up looking a lot like the average person, and the miracles or the magic happened after the "mere mortal" in the story said "hi" to start the conversation.

Anything like that ever happen to you?  Greeting someone either casually or with intent - and that person changed your life (hopefully for good more often than for not-so-good).   I know that each person I see - that I meet - that I interact with either casually or intentionally or regularly or habitually "is" god - I just forget sometimes.  Mostly cause I forget that I am god also.

The Divine shows up in my life all the time.  When I have that final encounter with the Power of the Universe, I want to hear The Source of All Life say "You had me at "hello".

Enjoy the day,


  1. dearest susan, i love reading your blog! I just wanted to let you know that your words are noticed, enjoyed and bring a sense of well being to another. Even if this was not your intention, they are going ahead anyway =). have a great day and Thank You for making mine great

  2. Thank you, Bert - comments like yours always seem to come at times when I think that I have nothing to say that matters to anyone other than myself. Thanks for brightening my day!