For those who know me well, you'll detect a bit of sarcasm in this greeting. I'm not a fan of summer. I don't like the heat, the bugs, the sun or the inevitable sunburn. I don't like going to the beach because it's sandy, it smells weird, its hot and there's too many people wearing too little fabric. Summer also means 73 (not that I'm counting) unscheduled, unstructured, uninterrupted days with The Wee Ones.
It was in this moment of preparing for (dreading?) the start of summer when I heard my pastor say a few words about how the early church was encouraged to greet one another. This got me thinking about those I love to see and those who I love to be seen by. I have a few friends who greet me in a way that makes me feel like a superstar. Their whole face lights up. They wave like lunatics with grins that fill their whole faces. Their eyes light up and they rush in for The Big Hug. Just their greeting alone fills my heart with so much goodness that I can't even.
Then there's those people who greet me like I'm something unpleasant that they've just discovered on the bottom of their shoe. I always feel like I'm inconveniencing those people by just drawing breath near them. I, instinctively, want to apologize rather than greet them. They may wince a smile and limply shake my hand but their whole aura screams their disdain and discomfort. I walk away from those encounters feeling like the world's biggest dork. Clearly, I'd rather be greeted by the first group I described, wouldn't you?
These thoughts tangled with my dread of The 73 Uninterrupted Days of Summer and suddenly I was asking myself a very uncomfortable question. Who gets your best greeting? My mind was instantly filled with those who greet me well (of course), those who I love and respect (naturally), those who are lovely to be with (absolutely) … those who are popular (okay), powerful (umm ..) and important (ouch). Then I asked, how do I greet those I live with verses those from the outside world? Does Mr. Awesome get The Best Greeting? Do the Wee Ones?
These questions - and answers - became very uncomfortable, very quickly. I didn't like the answers. I didn't like what the answers revealed about who is really important to me and who I just think is important. I didn't like that the truth is I often waste my best greeting on people who don't know me, like me or really matter to me and those who I really do love the most get half-hearted, lame greetings. I didn't like any of it. I don't like it.
I know that a greeting sets the tone for the encounter that follows. I know that a greeting communicates value, affection and respect. I know that the right greeting invites relationship and trust. I know that The Best Greeting offers a safe place where you are loved and accepted. So, why then don't I put more into my greetings?
Giving The Best Greeting is a risk. Its laying all your cards on the table, it's streaking through a stadium, it's opening your heart - wide and bare - and waiting to see if your greeting will be accepted and reciprocated. Giving The Best Greeting is terrifying and yet so freeing. I don't know why our culture feels that it's best to play it cool. I don't know how we got to this place of envying the aloof and non-committal. I want to live All-In. I want my kids to live, and love, that way too.
And I think the an All-In Life begins with The Best Greeting.
Truthfully, Mr. Awesome still gets The Best Greeting from the kids even though they are now teens and tweens. He receives The Best Greeting because he always, ALWAYS, gives The Best Greeting to his family. No matter what his day has been, he enters our home with a smile on his face and his arms open to give and receive the love and comfort of his family. Mr. Awesome gives The Best Greeting to everyone. I seriously can't think of one encounter where he hasn't given a hug or firm handshake, where he hasn't smiled and said, 'nice to see you' and genuinely meant it. He never misses a chance to love well, to welcome, to make a friend. And I'm learning.
Mother Teresa once said, "It would be a shame if when we meet people all they get is us." She was talking about the need people have to know God and how our every encounter with people is an opportunity for them to know God a little better. How can I communicate God's infinite love if I can't even greet someone with joy and dignity? How can I love like Jesus f I can't even risk an enthusiastic hello? How will my kids know the unfailing love of God if their mom fails to welcome them home with affection?
Here's the thing, I don't think that The Best Greeting will cure the ails of the world but it's a good (and easy) place to start. It opens the door to friendship and understanding. It sets the tone of your home and your heart. It forces you to look outward. It makes you focus on others more than you focus on yourself. And giving The Best Greeting is like throwing a boomerang - it inevitably comes back to you.
Begin each day grateful, loving and passionate, spread love to all you encounter and them with a smile, the power of love and happiness is contagious so share more smiles, laughter, encouragement and joy to those around you.