Years ago, I worked for the President of the Arizona Board of Regents. My office was in his law suite, along with his law partners and the lobbyists who worked for his firm. I seemed to often arrive just behind one of the lobbyists, Missy, meaning I was walking several paces behind her from the parking garage into the office building. And she almost always noticed, stopped, and turned around and walked back to where I was, so that we could enter together.
And it blessed me every time.
I can see stopping and waiting for me to catch up, but to actually backtrack said, “Hey, you’re cool. Let’s spend an extra minute together.”
A few years later, I found myself staying deep in the Kenyan bush in a very humble home with some of the most amazing hosts I had ever known. The latrine was a sort of outhouse, reached by crossing a bridge made of simple planks. (“Walking the plank” took on a whole new meaning.) Early one morning, I had walked the plank, done my business, and walked back across, rounded a corner, and nearly bumped into Daisy, the host’s 19 year-old daughter. “Oh! Hello!” I said with a start. I remember her hair looked about like mine must have, bedhead to be sure. (I don’t remember there being a mirror.) She smiled at my greeting, and said, “Hello, TOO!” I liked that.
And early last semester, I was walking down one of the hallways in my building, and I spotted one of my students approaching. I greeted her by name, and she stopped and said, “Wow, I’m impressed.”
“About what?” I asked. “You know my name,” she said. “We have only had two class meetings, and there are 25 students in that class. I can’t believe you know my name.”
I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t imagine that by simply adding her name to my greeting, I had added something to her day and to our exchange.
As I reflected on it, I remembered Missy’s morning greetings in Arizona, and Daisy’s bright “Hello, TOO!” and Ugandans’ careful, long, warm salutations—and vowed to become better at extending bright, attentive greetings. I don’t always succeed, but I shall keep trying.
I now like to enter my offices, stop, assume a Namaste pose, and say, “Gracious good morning.” (In San Diego that gets giggles. In Uganda it gets a “Good morning, Sir. How was the night?”)
People may think I’m silly, but perhaps in their future reflections it will bring a sense of warmth and a reminder of the pleasantries that make it oh-so nice to share this human experience with others.