I just returned from an energetic stroll around the neighborhood. I do this several times during the week. It is an appropriate time for me to reflect on various issues on my mind. One sad condition I’ve noticed; as a society, we have lost the art of saying howdy. I mean, how can any human being walk within two feet of my airspace, and not give me eye contact nor at least a smile or a nod of their head. I see people obsessed with their cell phones or just into themselves. This transpires in my neighborhood, at work, in stores; I observe it everywhere I go. And I believe it is becoming worse.
I grew up in a modest country community in southeast Arkansas called Promise Land. The fine people in this community are just down right good individuals. They leave keys in vehicles. Their doors are left unlocked. They share gardens. Visits from neighbors are often.
I do not recall my parents ever teaching me to say hello to a fellow passer-byer; when someone approached me, I simply said hello. It is a natural reaction, passed from generations. It is embedded in our DNA.
When my family traveled by automobile, the courtesy continued. When we passed someone on the road, we waved. And they waved back.
I noticed the wave supported the temperament of the waver, but typically was of the whole hand, five finger variety. A hand out the window meant for us to stop and converse. It really didn’t matter if someone was behind us. Back then, they just waited until you finished your conversation on the side of the road. I guess you could call this the early version of instant messaging.
When I traveled for a living, my territory, located in the south, had many back roads. I preferred traveling back roads as an alternative to the boring interstates. Many times, while passing through a small town, someone, usually driving an old beat up pickup truck, gave me the index, two finger wave. They did not know me, but it did not matter to them. By golly, they have been throwing up the index finger wave all their lives and they weren’t about to change now.
Good for them.
By the way, I instinctively threw the two-finger wave right back at them, as if I’d known them all my life. And while it is true, I did not know them, I could relate and certainly knew someone like them.
Early in my working career, I visited college campuses and recruited potential managers to our company. While all the campuses I visited had their own unique appeal, one sticks out in my mind as special.
As a graduate of the University of Arkansas, they ingrain in me to despise, the Aggies of TAMU. So, admitting this is painful, but those Aggies impressed me.
Walking across the Aggie campus, most students greeted me with an enthusiastic “Howdy.” They teach their freshman in orientation to respect visitors and to make them feel welcome on their campus. Wow! They take pride in using the term, “Howdy.” How refreshing that was for this country boy. For those students, this nicety carried over to their off-campus activities, unless they were beating us in sports, but I digress.
I like people who wave and say hello to me. I consider it a gesture of respect. In addition, I believe it’s just the right thing to do. I never know when someone is down on their luck, and my wave or hello may be just the ticket to deliver them out of their doldrums.
Today, few people wave, nor do they say hello.
I love to say “Howdy” just to mess with them.
I enter my beloved Starbucks and the greetings from my diverse barista’s are normally nil.
“Howdy,” declares the elderly bald fellow.
They almost blow out their nose rings. The Grande Latte makers pull off their knit stocking hats and stop peering at their cells just to examine who is using that term and more importantly, why?
Now Chick-fil-a is extraordinary.
“Hi. How are you doing today,” Chick-fil-a employee says to me, before I even have time to say howdy.
So, the art is not totally lost.
A recent article caught my eye. The article, 22 Percent of millennials say they have “No friends,” by Brian Resnick. August 1, 2019. According to the commentary, it defines millennials as ages 23 to 38. These should be the prime years of careers taking off and starting families. Yet, as the article points out, there’s something missing in this generation; companionship. 27 percent said they have no close friends.
Even scarier, 16 percent of GenXers and 9 percent of Baby Boomers say they have no friends.
No friends! That is incomprehensible to me.
Now I’ve moved many times in my life. I’m no rocket scientist, but I know the first step to making new friends is to say hello. Perhaps this would change if the lonely ones would just say hello to the person next to them instead of staring continually at their phones. The answer to their loneliness is obviously not found by staring at their phone.
Another article, Air Force orders a day devoted to suicide prevention, Friday August 02, 2019 by Thomas Gnau, states 78 airmen have taken their own lives so far in 2019. 78! And these are Americas finest!
What is the answer? More people are lonely out there than I recognize. I want to be the first to say, I will be your friend. If you want someone to talk to, call me. Let’s talk.
And to my old friends out there. It has been too long since we last spoke. Let’s reconnect and catch up! I’ve missed talking to you.
In the interim, I am gonna start saying howdy to as many people out there as feasible. I’m gonna dust off the ole two finger wave and wave to everyone that passes by. I encourage you to do the same.
Please know, you have a friend.
And let me be the first to say to you…