The Difference a Hello from a Stranger Can Make
—By Deborah Rogers
It was 8:00 AM. I took the same route to work each day, seeing the same places and familiar faces. I walked by the bus terminal and saw the busload of business people coming from the northern suburbs, hustling1 onto the escalators and dispersing through-out downtown to the many buildings and offices. I walked by the muffin2 shop, where there was always a line for muffins and coffee. I saw people dropping off their laundry at the dry cleaners, and the line at the Star-bucks.
I walked through Marshal Field’s, and passed by the security guard stationed in front of the men’s shirt shop, dressed in the standard uniform. He was a tall, slender attractive African-American with a mustache and dimples3. The security guard greeted everyone that walked by. He made small talks with many of the passers-by, complimenting their outfits, and wishing them well.
His simple "hello" made people feel special. He was more than a security guard; he was a staple of the morning rush. His presence and cheerful smile became a part of my day. When he was absent, many people noticed it, and I felt a little bit empty.
The first few times I saw the security guard, I didn’t say hello back to him. I was in my own world, contemplating the day’s activities. One day I said hello back. We continued to greet each other day after day. Then on one Friday morning he wished me a good weekend.
On Monday the security guard asked me, "How was your weekend?" I told him about my visit to California, to see my mother, who had colon cancer. I shared how I visited her each month. "My time with mother is so precious, because I know that each time may be the last. I feel fortunate to have the gift of time."
He listened like a concerned friend I’d known for years. He felt my sadness and my love. He shared how he had lost his father to cancer two years before. He said, "I understand what you are going through. My father passed away while I was serving in Germany. It was three months from retiring from being in the service for over 22 years. Due to circumstances I was unable to fly back in time. I was unable to say goodbye or be at the funeral. I wish I could have been with him, given him a hug, and told him I loved him. You are really lucky to have the gift of time."
As I walked away, I realized I did not even know his name. I was touched by the exchange. How compassionate and understanding the security guard was!
The following day, on my way to work, as the security guard said hello to me, I wished him a good morning back and said, "After we spent all that time talking yesterday, I still don’t know your name." The security guard answered, "Gary." I responded back, "My name is Deborah."
One Monday morning, I stopped to talk to Gary. Gary pulled a picture of his 7-year-old daughter out of his wallet. He told me they had spent the weekend together going to church and to the movies. He shared the importance of teamwork in the military and talked about the friends he had lost, fighting in Kosovo. He shared his vision of going back to school to become an airline pilot. I shared my dreams of wanting to work for myself.
At 42 years old, Gary followed his heart, entered into pilot training, and went back to school to earn a degree in business. Later, he received a call from the ROTC offering him a job at the University of New Mexico. Gary took the job, and moved away. It’s been several years since I last spoke to Gary in front of the men’s department, yet the memory feels like yesterday.
Gary reached out to me, touched me and made my morning the best part of the day. I experienced the beauty of friendship and love.
In the busyness of life, we often forget to wish a stranger hello although how easy it is, and how great and lasting a difference it can make. When you say hello to a stranger and share from the heart, you become a pebble in the pond. With each ripple4 you create, you spread love that continues to give, long after it seems that it has disappeared.
1. hustle v.推搡
2. muffin n.杯状小松糕
3. dimple n.酒窝
4. ripple n.波纹,涟漪；逐渐扩散的感觉