Hello and goodbye
November 26, 2014 § 10 Comments
I have a thing about saying goodbye. Don’t think you can just disappear without saying goodbye to me. I’ve been known to run down the road after people; to phone them back just to say goodbye when a call drops. I will always seek you out at a party and take my leave properly.
You see, one afternoon when I was 16, my mother dropped me off at a choir practice on the other side of town. I bounced out of the car, a careless goodbye flung over my shoulder, and ran into the rehearsal hall. When I arrived home several hours later, all sung out, my mother had died. Just like that.
I’ve regretted that hasty farewell ever since.
Greetings are such an automated part of our everyday exchanges, and we fling them around so casually:
– How are you?
– Fine, and you?
But so often, we’re not fine at all. And so often, we don’t really want to know how the other person is. We’ve taken something that’s an opportunity to connect with other human beings and reduced it to the level of a chore at worst, a nicety at best. We’re always in a hurry to be somewhere else, or we have something important we need to say and we’re impatient to get it out.
Is it any wonder so many of us feel isolated and lonely when we can’t even take the time to look someone in the eye and find out how they are? How many times do you ask: “How are you?” and hope fervently that the person you’ve asked won’t really tell you? That they’ll just mumble ‘Fine, thanks’ and leave it at that?
One of the biggest ironies of our age is that we have hundreds of online social media platforms, but people are so disengaged from other human beings that they don’t even like to talk on the phone anymore. It’s all just text, text, text. We sit behind our keyboards, fruitlessly typing, and all the while we’re moving further and further away from each other.
But greetings are important. And you only realise how important when they’re no longer there. When you can’t hug someone tightly or tell them that you love them, or kiss the impossible softness of their cheek.
We need other people – and it’s all too easy to forget how much you need them when they’re around. But when they’re gone, it’s too late. Then all you have is regrets and “if only”.
So look people in the eye when you greet them. Allow your face to light up when someone you love walks into the room. Listen when people tell you how they are. Put your hand in the small of your wife’s back; a palm on your husband’s cheek. Squeeze someone’s arm or knee. Kiss the smooth expanse of your children’s foreheads as they go to sleep. Hold someone’s hand.
Say hello, say good-bye, say I love you – before it’s too late.