A letter

The lost art of saying “hello”: To be a stranger.

In New York Summer on June 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I’ve been “the stranger” way to many times in the last 4 years, as you are well aware. Moving is not for the faint of heart. But, while I dreaded almost each and every time we went church hunting, gym hunting, park hunting or friend hunting, I can finally look back and say, “Thank you.” I know it seems like an odd thing to give thanks for, but it has changed me and will continue to change me, forever I hope.

I was at a conference this week and was once again “the stranger.” Though I’m much more comfortable now with this scenario than I was a few years ago, I still dread walking into a place for the first time—not knowing a soul. And, in this particular situation—I ate lunch amongst many picnic-ers—alone. Yes, I could have forced my way into a crowd, but after a failed attempt to reach out, I didn’t have it in me emotionally to try again. It’s okay. I’m fine. It was a beautiful day, and I had a great sandwich and two adorable boys to keep me company. What I wish I could tell you is that this hasn’t happened before. But as you know, it’s happened more times than I wish to admit, and I haven’t always been fine.

I have driven home from many events—hot tears pouring, my heart aching, just wishing for a friend—wishing someone would have said hello or saved me a seat. I remember standing in a buzzing room at a women’s event everyone in a cluster of friends, but never being invited to join in. I felt like my five-year-old self who didn’t get invited to the birthday party.

I often wonder what happened to the simple skill of saying “Hello?” Forget saying hello. What happened to a gentle head nod or wave when walking by someone you know, or even passing a stranger. Was this not at some point cultural etiquette? Could it be that we pass people every day longing for a “Hi”, a smile or a hug?

I wish I could encourage everyone I know to go somewhere new, alone: visit a church, go to a new workout class—just go somewhere where you don’t know anyone.  I would wager that it’s probably been awhile since most people were the stranger.  I’m sure most have forgotten what it feels like to be unknown. I’m sure most have forgotten what it’s like to be in crowded room not knowing where to go or who to talk to. I’m sure most have forgotten what it’s like to sit alone. I know I have at times. I’m a guilty party. It’s why I’m thankful for the last few years—and for Tuesday.

My prayer is that I won’t forget. I want to be the person that always finds the stranger. I want to be the person, that at the expense of my own comfort, makes someone else feel more at ease, more wanted—noticed. I want to be aware. I want to intentional. It doesn’t mean I have to be best friends with everyone, but I could be friendly.

Funny how we have one of the best examples of this kind of love, and we so easily forget. We know a man who is the best at noticing people. He’s the best at including people. His friend circle isn’t closed. He took me in, and I was wretched.  It changed everything for me.

Your friend,

  1. Great post, and I 100% agree with everything you’ve mentioned. It’s shocking how much of a difference you can make to someone’s life by just saying hello, thank you for this!

  2. Sweet friend! Just catching up on some Bep as my little baby coos at me and the ensuing chaos of moving infringes on me again! We are moving to Florida in two and a half weeks and I’m “looking forward” (only in the very literal sense) to being the stranger…everywhere…again. These are good words and I THANK YOU! And I love ya!

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