I was thinking the other day about this growing old thing.
One day, you are just a kid and the next day you, well, aren’t.
I remember high school graduation like it was yesterday, but no, it was 41 years ago.
A mere blip on the cycle of life.
Those days were a lot of fun, but they also contained a lot of angst. We wanted a lot of stuff that we were too young to have. We wanted to put school in the rear-view mirror and overlook the prospects of having to get a job.
We wanted to have our own money, our own place, and make our own rules. We wanted the good life and we wanted it right now.
Well, if there is anything to be said about getting old, I guess it is that I have all that now. I married my high school sweetheart. And, just for good measure, I don’t have acne either.
What I do have, however, is an increasing resistance by my body to respond to certain commands like ‘stand up’ or ‘run’ (like that’s going to happen). I guess you could call that getting old.
I prefer to think of it as outliving my warranty.
There is no such thing as OEM parts for a body. They are all produced by aftermarket manufacturers, so we start to turn into an entity consisting of spare parts.
Time was, if I dropped something, I would simply pick it up. Today, I find myself contemplating whether I really need it anymore.
In my youth, if I fell down, people would just laugh. Today if I fall down, they gasp… except for my grandsons… they seem to enjoy when grandpa falls down.
All a matter of perspective, I guess.
I’m happy to say that my mind seems to run pretty well. Oh, I do forget things, and find a lot of my conversations contain the phrases ‘did I tell you this before’ or ‘now what was I going to say’?
But that’s OK because my wife will reply ‘Huh, what did you say’?
In retrospect, I’ve got to say I’m kind of enjoying this aging thing. I think senility will be a rather smooth transition for me. I’ve noticed that if I’m feeling cranky, people are not surprised. If I ask for the senior discount, I don’t get challenged.
Since I suffer from cellulitis and peripheral neuropathy, I have a handicapped sticker in my car. Have you ever watched someone park in a handicapped space and, when they get out of the car you check them out for external signs of infirmity?
Well, I’ve noticed when I get out of my car, people just nod.
I’m trying. I’m not there yet. I still say yes to almost everything.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I am not ready to become a curmudgeon.
As I have said before, I am not the guy that yells at the neighbor’s kids to get off my lawn. I don’t ever want to be that “guy.”
However, seconds after I say yes to certain things I regret saying yes. It’s not that I don’t want to help people or assist when and where I can. It is more of a mindset in my head. I have never been able to really say no to things. My mind screams no and my lips say yes.
Don’t misinterpret what I am saying or meaning… I will always do for my family and what I feel is necessary. I will say yes to almost anything for my family.
In addition, I am learning that with over 40 years working I have said yes to just about everything at the places I was employed. If it wasn’t illegal or immoral I would do anything I ever was asked. I now see that the hours that I stayed late without pay and all of the “stuff” I did still finds me unemployed at 58. I lost my job due to a corporate buyout and I have worked the last year closing down the business I sweat blood for. At no fault of my own… saying yes to everything related to my job still lead to my unemployment.
Sometimes I feel like a target, meaning people learn who will say yes and who will say no to things. When you deal with these people and you finally say no… all hell breaks loose. Some people who I finally had to say no to a few things have completely cut me out of their life and they went on to take advantage of others. I am no worse for them doing that.
I’m slowly learning that one of the most liberating parts of getting older is learning how beautiful and empowering it is to say no. The keyword there is learning… because I have to change my mindset to convince my lips to say no.
I haven’t said it much, or at least I don’t think I have.
I think we could use a little more “no” in the world.
And, of course, I understand how much we all love the word “yes” and the kind-hearted people who use it. It’s such a generous word—the ultimate people-pleaser.
In fact, let’s call “yes” the hero of the dictionary—a positive affirmation for what is possible.
To say yes is to join in, take charge, and find a way to make something happen. To say yes is to move mountains, find cures, and solve problems. Yes, pushes the boundaries and takes us to places we never thought we’d go.
You want a beautiful next chapter of life? Say yes, every chance you get. Yes, to a better job, yes to more health, improved relationships, and new adventures. Yes, to joy, challenge, laughter, peace, compassion, happiness, and love.
Saying yes can rock your world. And I’m all for it.
However, like all good paradoxes, yes can also destroy us or turn us into puppets and clones.
Yes, can make us do things we don’t want to do or more importantly it can make us do things we shouldn’t do.
Yes, may be the language of the hero, but no is the language of the walk-to-your-own-beat, live your own truth warrior.
If yes is Superman, no is Batman.
Batman is a bit darker, but still, a superhero and arguably the second most powerful word in our vocabulary is no.
I have always considered myself more of a Batman as opposed to Superman… lol.
Yes, my friends, it’s time to shake our heads and wag our fingers. It’s time to border up the windows, lock the doors, and learn how to say no.
If it makes it easier to swallow, think about it as saying say yes to no.
Learning to say no can lead to and finding a beautiful yes.
Your life will never be the same.
Something to Ponder:
A good no shouldn’t be defiant, unyielding, absolute, or without motivation. That’s not the knee-jerk liberation we seek. A good no should be quiet and confident, a peaceful mantra for living your authentic truth.
Challenging Ways to Practice Saying No
Here are a few suggestions for putting a few more life-affirming no’s into your life. I am sure that you can add a few of your own…
Say no to putting yourself last. You can’t give away what you don’t have, whether that’s energy, love, humor, or joy. Take care of yourself first, and the world will be better off.
Say no to too much overtime, unreasonable deadlines, and impossible workloads that leave no time for joy and a deeper search for meaning. Schedule your life so that your work serves your inner and outer worlds. Make the same time and commitment for your inner journey that you do for your career or your family.
Say no to excessive television, electronics, news, politics, gossip, food, drink, or anything that brings you imbalance, fatigue, and illness, no matter how harmless, pleasurable, or intoxicating it may be.
And while you’re at it, say no to people who try to make you feel guilty for not doing more.
Say no to friends who infringe on your space, covet your time, suck your energy, and give nothing in return (you know who they are). Aim for creativity and compassion as you firmly put this into practice.
Say no to work you don’t want to do, places you don’t want to live, and situations that no longer serve your needs.
Say no to blindly adopting the attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets of those around you. Discover new ones that challenge and inspire you to live and create differently.
Say no to always being the knight in shining armor. While it’s great to be there for others, don’t get trapped into thinking it always has to be you who is the shoulder to cry on, throw the surprise party, or house-sit the neighbor’s pet. This can be hard, especially when it comes to family and friends, but if your no comes neutrally and from the place of your truth, it’s the right word. If someone resents you for it, then the favor wasn’t asked with a spirit of gratitude, which validates that it wasn’t in harmony for you to say yes in the first place.
The beauty of no is that it asks us what to leave out. “No,” asks us to recognize what doesn’t work, and in doing so, to discover what does.
When you think about it… no is yes in disguise—a small shake of the head that becomes the line we draw in the sand—a choice and a statement of what we believe and how we want to live.
Yes or no should not define you… this should:
The truth is that life isn’t about which side you’re on, which candidate you support, which views you hold on an issue but life is about how you treat one another.
Are you kind? Do you see others as more important than yourself? Do you yield at the light? Maybe open the door for an elderly person? Say thank you? Do you tip well? Do you help those who are struggling? Encourage those who are down? Life is not a competition to see who wins. If any of us lose we all lose.
My favorite verse is hidden at the end of 1 Corinthians. It’s verse 16:14- “Do everything in love.”
That’s it. Four words.
And they sum up a life lived well.
Don’t live in fear, live boldly, love well and see those around you.
If they don’t finish well then neither do you.
Saying No… just may be our secret weapon for a better life for you and those around you.
First off, I need to tell you that life gets better.
A letter to one’s teen self often starts off with that tried and true sentiment, because it fits.
Let me cut to the chase… the incident that took place just a few months ago will become a distant memory. You will survive and it will not define who will become. I know you think that you’ll never live it down but you will. You will forgive those that wronged you and life will move on. Most people will not even remember.
Writing 4 decades later, I know things improved, but you haven’t discovered that yet. It won’t be better all of the time; there will be both good days and bad days, awful times and great times, and all the shades of experience in between.
You’ll make it through. I’m you, writing to you from more than forty years in the future, so yeah, you survive it all. Not unscathed, scarred for sure and possibly not quite intact, but you make it.
Ah. I’m getting ahead of myself.
The perils of hindsight.
It’s March 26th, 1976. A Friday. Exactly 43 years, 10 months, and 24 days from when I am writing this to you. More specifically… 16,035 days ago.
You’re a freshman at Oak Harbor High School, but there’s no school today. You skipped it today. A fake fever and a sore throat complaint made by you got you a pass from school today.
As you look through your window at the active Locust street traffic, you see that the first signs of Spring are making their way after a brutal frigid winter.
On the radio, WIOT-FM is giving away a free Michael Stanley Band LP to the first caller who can identify the U.S. city that was home to the first traffic light; you’ll listen until one caller shares, “CLEVELAND!” as the correct answer. You’ll wish you knew the right answer so you could win an album but be patient… something called the “internet” will be coming. You’ll have these things called computers that you’ll have all the information you ever needed to know at the reach of your fingertips. As a matter of fact, you’ll carry a phone in your pocket. It too is a computer. It will be used to take pictures and will have more technology than what they had when they sent man to the moon a few years ago.
But you’re not ready to hear those details because you won’t believe me until you experience it.
Once again… the perils of hindsight.
It’s a scary time all around you. Jimmy Carter, a former peanut farmer and Governor from Georgia, will be your President. Don’t worry… Ronald Reagan will fix it.
You will be jockeyed around when it comes to politics… you won’t believe who will be your President in 2016. I won’t tell you because I want you to be as surprised as everyone else was. In 2020, the country is divided, and you’ll discover that all you can do is learn how to love those that you disagree with. As a heads up… learn to not argue about politics or Christianity… all it has done is cause division. Work on being a better person now… maybe you can change the history that I have laid down. Maybe you can change the footprints of the legacy I have left behind. History has a way of making us realize that we can’t change the past… but I hold on to the dream of it happening. That is the purpose of this letter to you (me).
You’re lonely. You’re 15. You’re supposed to feel alone, in spite of the presence of a family that loves you, and a smattering of friends with whom you share some good times. Is it teen drama? Is it clinical depression? Is it both, or neither? The vantage point of four decades gone has not clarified the answer in my head. Nor could anything I say now at 58 have any real meaning for you at 15. The twisted, uneven path before you remain only yours to tread. Tread carefully.
Don’t worry… I know you’re only 5′ 5″ tall and only weigh about 85 lbs. By next September you’ll be 6′ 2″… but as far as the weight goes… you’ll not weigh much more. At least not for about 30 years… you won’t believe me now but you’ll top the scales at 378 lbs. before you get serious about losing weight. Funny for you now but trust me it is as real as gets when it comes to losing weight. You’ll lose over 125 lbs. but the next 50 are the hardest.
You have your music, and it helps you.
The Temptations have etched an indelible mark on you and you will never shake the sounds of CKLW out of your DNA. You will always have a soft spot for Soul music and it starts with David Ruffin and The Temptations.
Your favorite group is The Beatles, and that will never really change. Your current affection for Elton John and Fleetwood Mac will abate somewhat over time, but you’ll remain a steadfast fan of The Monkees. But as a head’s up, keep that to yourself. Your burgeoning interest in Queen will grow stronger. You’ll still like the Bay City Rollers, though they won’t remain at the very top of your pops for long. And once again… keep the Bay City Roller thing to yourself.
But, within the next year or so, you’re going to hear two groups who will join The Beatles as your all-time favorites. You know Aerosmith, that group you’ve been reading about in Circus Magazine? Yeah, that’s right–the scary guys with the leather jackets, and the songs about girls and the challenge to Dream On. They frighten you now, but once you finally hear them, you’re gonna start calling them The American Beatles, the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll band of all time. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me, young man! I know you… your hidden love for bubble gum pop music will fade but never leave you. Just wait. You’ll see. And then just over a year from now, you and your friend Bryan Blakely are going to see a band called Electric Light Orchestra, and you’re going to feel like you’ve just seen God.
You’re going to mature, but you’re not going to mature all that much. I wish you would or could in a better way than your future self. The music you’re listening to right now, all that Beatles and British Invasion stuff, plus the Doobie Brothers and Earth, Wind and Fire and about a billion others, are going to dovetail with the disco you’ve been listening to, and it’s all going to come together as your music in this crucible of 1976. Pretty soon, you’re going to hear a band called The Cars, and you’ll think Heaven formed them just for you. You’ll hear Van Halen and think that your notion of what is and isn’t rock ‘n’ roll is due for redefinition. You’re going to forsake The Monkees, briefly, but you’ll come back to them almost immediately.
In later years, you’re going to develop an appreciation for some pop sounds that might not be relevant to you just yet. I know you don’t really care about The Who; you will. I know you like The Beach Boys, the Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and someday, you’ll regard The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as the greatest album of all time. Yeah, even more than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Believe it or not! You’re going to like David Bowie more than you do now. You’re going to like Bob Dylan less. If I recall the timeline, you’re almost ready to start loving The Eagles. You’ll privately sing along with John Denver but publicly dismiss his music. You’re going to discover Styx and The Steve Miller Band; you’re going to discover reggae; you’re going to discover rockabilly. And you’re going to discover that Michael Jackson will become the biggest pop star of all time. His album “Thriller” will sell more records than any other. Oh, and by the way, you’ll “listen” to Prince, but you won’t “hear” him until years later.
Before this year is done, you’re going to write your first real story about growing up in Oak Harbor. Like you have since you could write… you are going to write many, many, many more after that, over a span of 4 decades.
You’re going to bristle and complain whenever someone calls you a writer. I am going to warn you to reconsider throwing away all of those notebooks that contain all of your thoughts and stories. I know… you are wondering why you would throw them away. I can only say that there are things that you are going to experience, and I can’t play with history. Things will happen that you will not be able to control. Know this, as time passes these stories will fade and be sure that you know that your best writing were contained in those notebooks.
You will not marry Linda Ronstadt, nor will you hook up with Stevie Nicks.
But you will have girlfriends. In fact, a girl will get your attention, rather eagerly, in the not-too-distant future, and I don’t intend to spoil that surprise. This young woman with whom you’ll want to spend the rest of your life, and she’ll feel the same way about you. Don’t worry… you are going to go through a lot with this woman… but you’ll marry her in the end!!!
You’re going to keep on making mistakes. You’ll say things you regret; you’ll do things you regret, and I wish I could prevent all of that. But I can’t, and I shouldn’t. Because fixing even one of those bad, bad things could divert you from the path that leads to your greatest joy: like your sons. Your sons are something else, man, and just being their father will earn you more pride and fulfillment than anything else you will ever do in this life. You won’t even mind that they become better than you, because all of their accomplishments make you happier than you can even imagine now.
You will raise two girls as your own and will love them more than you can ever imagine. They will produce grandsons that will fill you with more love than a man is ever supposed to have in this life. You will hold them in your hands when they are babies and tears will fill your eyes as you look down on the beauty that is life. You watch them grow and you’ll realize that being called grandpa is the greatest and highest title you will ever attain. Wait and see.
And you will share a love of music with your son. You won’t like the same kinds of music–let’s not get crazy–but music will fill every fiber of his being, just as it fills yours now.
Keep listening to your music. Keep reading about new sounds. Keep faith in the sounds you already know and cherish. Keep writing. You’re gonna get published. You’ll write a book about the experiences you are having now. You’re never going to make much money at it, but you are going to find people interested in what you say, and in the way you say it. I know you lack confidence in yourself, but I know you believe in your writing. Others are going to believe in it, too.
Very soon now, you’re going to write a short story that reads like a suicide note. It’s just a story; I know. I know. There are people you know right now–at least two of them–who will choose to end their own lives, and will follow through with that fatal decision. You can’t save them. You will look back and wish you could. You will look back very often and wish you could have done…something. But it is within your power to save yourself. You can do it. I’ve already proven that you can do it. It will not be easy, but you will succeed.
You’ve been listening to Sgt. Pepper. You’ve been singing along; it’s getting better all the time. It will get better. You will have triumphs, perhaps modest ones, but you’ll feel that elation, nonetheless. You will also battle depression. I can’t promise you the paradise you crave, because it ain’t coming. But you’re going to have a good life, marred by disappointments, devastated by tragedies, yet still a life worth savoring, a life that will touch the lives of others in, I hope, mostly positive ways.
Please disregard the lecture you’ll receive in 1979 about you not being good enough or smart enough to go to college. You’ll go. As a matter of fact, I know you can’t envision this but by 1982 you will have traveled all over Africa and South America. I shouldn’t tell you this but by 1985 you’ll be a teacher and then a principal.
Oh. And you’re gonna get to see The Pretenders and Tom Petty. You’ll see Bob Seger and James Taylor, and you’ll cry along with a few thousand other men when Paul McCartney takes the stage. The best concert you’ll ever see will be The Beach Boys in 1980. You’re gonna get to see Jackson Browne, Kansas, and The Who. You’ll see Ringo Starr and you’ll remember where you were when Elvis dies. There’s a lot of music ahead of you. Life will be better because of it.
Finally, I leave you with this. You are going to realize that your faith and belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven is the most important aspect of your life. You have spent too much time trying to hide it from your friends and those you hang around with. I am here to tell you that you will regret that. Be more open to share your faith. Your relationship with Jesus Christ is critical to who you are and more importantly who you will become.
This year is crucial. Everything starts for you in 1976. Keep your head held high. You won’t get the reference just yet, but keep your head held high.
Your life will be better because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Much Older (Little Wiser) You (David)
PS: That hope to die before you get old? Stupid notion. Discard it now.
There seems to be a lot of talk these days about what is fair, and what is not.
Some of the 99% seem to believe life has treated them unfairly, and some of the 1% percent feel life hasn’t treated them fairly enough.
My questions are these: What is fair? Is life fair? Should life be fair?
I’ll frame the debate, and you decide…
We clearly have no choice about how we come into this world, we have little choice early in life, but as we grow older choices abound. I have long believed that while we have no control over the beginning of our life, the overwhelming majority of us have the ability to influence the outcomes we attain in life.
Fair is a state of mind, and most often, an unhealthy state of mind.
In business, in politics, and in life, most of us are beneficiaries of the outcomes we have contributed to.
Our position in life cannot, or at least should not, be blamed on our parents, our teachers, our pastors, our government, or our society – it’s largely based on the choices we make, and the attitudes we adopt.
People have overcome poverty, drug addiction, incarceration, abuse, divorce, mental illness, victimization, and virtually every challenge known to man. Life is full of examples of the uneducated, the mentally and physically challenged, people born into war-torn impoverished backgrounds, who could have complained about life being unfair, but who instead chose a different path – they chose to overcome the odds and to leave the world better than they found it. Regardless of the challenges they faced, they had the character to choose contribution over complaint.
I don’t dispute that challenges exist. I don’t even dispute that many have an uphill battle due to the severity of the challenges they face. What I vehemently dispute is attempting to regulate, adjudicate, or legislate fairness somehow solves the world’s problems.
Mandates don’t create fairness, but people’s desire and determination can work around or overcome most life challenges.
It doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon, plastic spoon, or no spoon at all.
It’s not the circumstances by which you come into this world, but what you make of them once you arrive that matter.
From a leadership perspective, it’s a leader’s obligation to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not it’s perceived as the fair thing.
Fair blends the norm, and in doing so, it limits, inhibits, stifles, and restricts, all under the guise of balance and equality.
I believe fair only exists as a rationalization or justification.
The following 11 points came from a commencement speech widely attributed to Bill Gates entitled Rules for Life. While many dispute it was proffered by Bill Gates or not, I tend to agree with the hypothesis:
Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president of a company unless you earn it.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your parents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So, before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
Here’s the thing – we all face challenges, and life treats us all unfairly.
We all make regrettable choices, and we all suffer from things thrust upon us due to little if any fault of our own. The greatest adversity life can throw at you simply affords you an opportunity to make changes, improve, and get better.
Fair is not an objective term – it is a matter of perspective filtered by a subjective assessment. My subjective assessment is that fair is an entitlement concept manufactured to appease those who somehow feel slighted.
However, you try to justify the efforts to make it so doesn’t ever change the hard promise that…
Life isn’t fair.
No, life’s not fair.
And in a cruel twist, our wish to see it as fair keeps us from making it so.
I was so thirsty, and I wanted to order a sweet tea and drink it as fast as I could.
When my twenty-something server asked for my drink order, tongue in cheek, I responded, “For the love of God, I hope you have sweet tea.”
Without missing a beat, she smiled warmly and said, “Well, I’m an atheist, so that really doesn’t matter to me. But we do have sweet tea.”
I was surprised that she just said that so matter-of-fact, without much hesitation. I could not believe that she shared her non-belief so casually. Like a cold, wet washcloth, it kind slapped me in the face.
As I sat there I was clearly aware that I had no answer to her off-the-cuff statement. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t prepared for someone looking me in the eye and without blinking, tell me that they did not believe in God.
Atheists reject the idea that God exists. When they say that there is no God, atheists put the notion of a divine being on a list that includes unicorns and faeries.
By contrast, my faith places God on the existing-being list with stars and alligators and Dachshunds.
Faith is believing. And believing is following a Way.
Putting that in a slightly different way, following Christ means to walk the way of love.
The way that Jesus embodied, exemplified, and inspired.
The way of love is a way of intentional response. We experience God’s love for us in various ways and respond to that love.
Jesus taught everyone that we are God’s beloved children. He wouldn’t have had to tell us this if it were obvious. The world kicks plenty of us around, tosses us aside, and treats us like something on the bottom of somebody else’s shoe.
People go hungry, go homeless. Get fired and get abused. People languish in jail and know cruelty at the hands of those who should nurture and protect them. We all face challenges and disappointments and wrenching heartaches. Moreover, rich and powerful people seem intent on establishing once and for all that they are the winners and some people are just losers.
The Way of Jesus is a radical alternative.
We are God’s beloved, and so is everyone and everything we encounter.
However bruised and battered and disfigured we may be by the circumstances of life, each step we take is a response, a response to the love we’ve been given as a gift.
There are over 2,700 ways to say hello on this planet, not counting handshakes, fist bumps, smiles, nods, winks, bows, hugs and rubbing noses.
Hello. Ciao. Bonjour. Konnichiwa. Mambo.
Go ahead, pick your favorite, or do as they do in Tibet—stick out your tongue, which for the non-Tibetans in the crowd, is a sign of respect and a simple way to send a message that you care.
Hello is a magical and momentum-building word that puts into motion unseen forces.
I’ll call it a game-changer—a symbolic gesture that we’re getting off our couches and going out to engage the world. Yes, my friends, put all the advice you’ve heard about getting older aside for a moment and remind yourself that no matter what you have planned for your life, there can be no bright second act without hello.
Unfortunately, hello has gone the way of the personal letter.
Hello… has been devalued; its warmth stripped to a conversation starter.
Yes, hello is a way into a room, a start on the phone, the beginning of an email, but it is a far cry from a happy tongue shot out of the mouth.
And, as with anything we don’t put our hearts into, we eventually stop doing it altogether or reserve our hellos for the chosen few in our immediate circle.
In time, we no longer go out of our way to say hello.
Our world becomes smaller.
Our voice becomes softer.
We become invisible.
Now, if it sounds like I’m on a soapbox, pointing fingers, I am—mostly at myself.
Full disclosure, I not only perfected the quick, “let’s move on” hello, but I also invented the “something in my eye” twitch, the shoelace tie, and the fake phone call, along with a dozen other ways to get out of saying hello in the first place. Hello… means I have to engage, I have to do something, maybe join a conversation—which, if got out of hand, might lead to coffee or a night out with couples.
Call me a casualty of my poor hearing, a killjoy, or plain lazy—they’re all true. Either way, I don’t extend myself as much as I should. But I’m trying. And I understand that we get to a point in our lives when we shouldn’t have to extend ourselves if we don’t want to. We’ve earned the right to all the solitude we want. But saying hello isn’t about turning introverts into extroverts, or not valuing personal space.
Saying hello is about connecting and embracing the world around us.
If you don’t think that’s a problem, think again. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over a quarter of the U.S. population—and 28 percent of older adults—now live by themselves. Forty-six percent of U.S. adults report sometimes or always feeling lonely, and 47 percent report feeling left out. Suicide from loneliness is a real phenomenon.
And while we could debate all the reasons for this, and the actions society should take in response, the truth remains: we must each step out of our comfortable world and meet the universe half-way. We must open our hearts and acknowledge those around us while also allowing others to recognize us.
To see and to be seen.
We can start with a hearty hello.
Something to Ponder:
Think back to your first hello with all the people you treasure in your life, then remind yourself that hello is a word that holds the potential to open the door into unseen worlds and infinite possibilities.
Actions to Take:
Turn hello into an experiment. Say hello to all those neighbors you typically ignore, co-workers you never talk to, strangers at a party. Say hello in elevators, at crosswalks, checkout lines, gas stations, when you’re waiting for the light to change. Say hello to the mailman, the homeless guy by the freeway, the teller at the bank.
Reach out and say hello to someone you’d like to get to know more, perhaps someone you’ve admired or whose energy makes you come alive.
Experience “hello again” by reaching out to someone you’ve lost touch with, and wish you hadn’t.
Practice your hello’s, not in a stalkerish way that leads to a restraining order, but with the humility that comes when you believe everyone you meet has something to offer, and that every interaction holds the potential for transformation. Carry this thought with a gentle touch and then notice how the universe says hello back in ways you could have never imagined.
Hello… is more than a greeting.
It’s your foot in the door to a whole new chapter in your life.