Two years ago, I became the proud owner of a shiny, new, white Jeep Wrangler. I’ve always wanted a Jeep. Now that I had entered a phase of family life where I no longer transported mass quantities of children and because my well-worn and dearly loved SUV was in its last days, I was finally able to buy one.

As I drove home, excited about our new purchase, I became aware that I had also unknowingly become the member of a “club” I never asked to join – a Jeep-owners club.

This club doesn’t hold meetings. We don’t even know each other. We just wave to each other on the road whenever we pass one another.

I’m sure there must be other similar “clubs”. When my husband owned his Harley, I noticed motorcycle riders would acknowledge each other on the road. Are there others? I don’t know. Do Corvette-, PT Cruiser-, VW-, or Prius-owners have such a “club”? I wonder.

The realization of this “club” sunk in as I drove home and saw one after another fellow Jeep owner wave to me. My internal reaction was “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”. I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to HAVE to wave to people every time I drive my Jeep somewhere. So, I thought, “Well, I just won’t do it” then. So, for a very short time, I didn’t. But, as others waved and passed me by, I felt guilty about acting like such a snot by not simply waving. Now I’m a waver and I am astounded by why some Jeep-owners can’t be bothered to simply wave. We’re just saying ‘hi’!

Another example of ‘just saying hi’ happened last year as I walked with my kids at their high school Back to School Night. We passed another student that my daughter had played softball with for years beginning at 8 years old. As I greeted her, I noticed that they passed one another in the hallway without any acknowledgment.

I asked my daughter about this later and she told me that they’re not really friends now. I argued that they still knew each other and had a history with one another. I was informed that, in high school, things like that didn’t matter. I was shocked that they would just ignore one another and, deep down, I wanted to chastise them both to ‘just say hi”!

As I reflected on this, I remembered years ago when my family and I first began attending our church. We didn’t know many people there. We walked in, said hi to the “official” greeters and took our seats. When we left, we did just that – we left.

Flash forward six years and I find myself on that same church’s staff, wearing a nametag on Sundays. I’m now saying ‘hi’ to everyone I pass in the lobby, the hallway, the parking lot. Why didn’t I do that before? Did that insignificant little nametag give me permission to ‘just say hi’?

What gives you permission to speak to others? Do you ‘just say hi’ to strangers as you pass someone on the sidewalk, in the store aisle, at the gas station? Why not? Saying hi is simply acknowledging “I’m a human. You’re a human. Hi there, fellow human.” Do you need an insignificant little nametag to do so?

We live in a small-ish town where our culture lends itself to friendliness and familiarity. What’s the worst that could happen if you said hi to a stranger in town? Insult? Injury? Death? No! The absolute worst thing that could happen is the other person just doesn’t respond. That would be their loss, not yours.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us to “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1

Come on people. Let’s make our corner of the world a little friendlier. Let’s change the culture around us just as Jesus did. Just say hi. It’s a small thing that can change the very environment around you.

While you’re at it, if you don’t currently belong to a church, why not pop into one of the many great churches we have in Kings County and ‘just say hi’ to others there and to God Himself?

Sylvia Gaston is the director of Children's Ministry at Koinonia Church. Any comments can be sent to: sylvia@kchanford.com.

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