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Theology in the Trenches

By Kathleen Kjolhaug 

“Hello!”

It’s a simple word. Nothing much need be attached if anything. Yet, along with that word comes validation that someone else has not only noticed you but cared enough to acknowledge that. It feels good when someone says it. It feels “small-townish” if you will.

Connecting with those who inhabit space nearby may not seem like a big deal but it is. One need only pass by another in a hallway, a store isle, or a sidewalk where no acknowledgement is given and the contrast becomes stark. It’s one thing when that happens with a complete stranger or someone you have never met, but when it’s someone you know passes by without acknowledgement...well...it can be disarming. In today’s terminology, it could be described as beyond uncomfortable.

I used to think it was normal to say “Hello” to passersby. After all, in the little town in which I grew up...most said it. It was the norm to pass by another, look at them, smile and say hello. Whether it was on main, in church, in the workplace, or in school...everyone said hello. I took it for granted that this was the norm the world over.

As I grew older, I’ve since lived several places throughout the world. Some of those places actually added more than a verbal greeting. In one community in which I lived, it was not only customary to say hello, but when meeting another, to give a hug along with it. It fostered a sense of community and united hearts. It was as if we were all doing life together. 

While passing by others on a continent south of the border, it was common to meet and greet with the word, “Adios.” It took me a while to get the hang of what it meant. How strange, I thought, that instead of a greeting, it was more like saying “good-bye.” Later I came to understand that the word literally meant, go with God. It was actually a blessing being sent to one another as they passed.

In other communities those who passed by simply did not greet. To top it off, while passing others not only did they fail to look up but they actually looked down. Adults looked down, young people looked down, people in stores looked down, and those I met on the street looked down. It not only felt odd, but it felt cold.

Greetings can actually be sacred as Romans 16:16 tell us. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

It’s the basics that count. It’s the basics that not only form community, but build it. Community is you, it’s me, and it’s the one next to us. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to simply say, “Hello” in whatever format that takes.  Amen.