Hello (Not Adele)

hello

 

This winter has been extremely mild, probably the mildest I ever remember for western Pennsylvania (the five winters in Florida don’t count, for obvious reasons).

Bonnie and I have been pretty faithful in our walking at Buhl Park, our favorite place to walk. Today, for example, it was sunny and 39 degrees, a bit brisk but if dressed properly, very doable. The coldest I’ve walked in was 12 degrees, but I wasn’t dressed properly.

Sometimes we walk in the morning, which is preferable unless bitter cold, and sometimes in the afternoon. We walked this afternoon, and Bonnie and I talked about the differences between morning walkers and afternoon ones.

Morning walkers seem to be more pleasant and friendly. They spot you from 15 yards away and begin their eye contact. As they approach, brief conversations occur. “Good morning, great day isn’t it?”. “Yes, unbelievable warm winter”. “Best I can remember”. “Hope it stays that way till spring”. “Have a good day”. “You too”.

Pleasant, friendly, and engaging. One of the things I like about small town living. You get to know people and people aren’t afraid to talk to each other.

Unless you’re an afternoon walker. They seem to be a little more “uptight”. Maybe it’s because they’re in a hurry or they’re on a break from work or maybe they think they’re better than you.

They spot you from 15 yards away and immediately lower their eyes. They move towards you but further to the side away from you. I like to force them to ignore me. I stare at them until they make eye contact, and if they don’t, I say, “Good afternoon” or “hey”. Sometimes they respond politely, but mostly they ignore or pretend they don’t hear. These are the ones not wearing headphones. The ones with headphones don’t acknowledge anything.

The girl yesterday was beyond ridiculous. We hit the 15 yard mark and she was wearing headphones. She wouldn’t make contact, not even a glance. And THEN as she is within 10 feet of me, she turns in the opposite direction of me and looks into the sky! I’m thinking, “Lady, I’m 260, what the heck is bigger that you’re looking at in the sky?”

And there’s no shame. I feel they go home and write in their diary, “Dear diary, I walked in the Park today and talked with no one. Oh, one or two tried to engage me with a “hello”, but I stared off into space as if I had spotted the Second Coming. Well done, diary, a good day”.

My wife Bonnie is the nicest person I know. She is ridiculously nice. I think I caught my diabetes from her sweetness. She has held the door for so many people when we’re shopping, I could get a burger and a haircut and she’d still be holding the door. She has a sign in our house that says, “Because Nice Matters”. People make fun of her, but I tell you, when people start to complain or judge, she gives them the right advice always and says afterwards, “And why do we do that?”. And the person she is talking to says “Because nice matters.” They know her.

Why is it that people refuse to be nice? A simple “hello”, a heartfelt “How are you?”, must be too taxing for people to say. It would require caring, interest, and possibly, oh no, love? When did we become a world of tin men? Trying to go to the Wizard to get a heart. How have we become so cold?

It reminds me of Matthew 24:12- “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold”.  Is that where we’re at? Have we chosen to build walls around us so not to get hurt? Can anyone break those walls?

The walls, my friends, come down from our side. We have to choose to trust, to engage, to “be bothered with other people”, and even to love. It’s as simple as a “hello”. Yet that appears to be, at least in the afternoon, the hardest word to say.

 

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