November 28, 2010

When in Doubt, Say This


This past week provided a confluence of conversations, connections and activities, which is not unusual for the Thanksgiving break.  This year's was a bit more intriguing with the opportunity to finalize things to buy my first boat, for my wife and I to babysit our first grandchild, and the occurrence of the burn ban postponement of the Texas A&M Student Bonfire.  All those fit together with the tastiness of Thanksgiving Day's turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and fixin's. 

Our granddaughter is two months old. We had the pleasure of watching her for a few hours while my son and his wife sold his unique bonfire t-shirts at the burn site. There is something magic about watching one so small---granddaughter, not son or daughter in-law---as she takes a bottle, cries, looks around her world and sleeps.  All they know at that age is comfort and discomfort; the former comes from a full tummy and being held while the latter comes with hunger or a messy diaper.  Life is sort of simple that way, and when she doesn't know what else to "say," she cries.  It is her language to convey discomfort while silence and smiles convey comfort at this stage.

A tradition at Texas A&M is to say "howdy" to others when greeting.  I've said it for most of my life, beginning long before I knew what a university was, much less Texas A&M.  I heard the greeting several times in College Station where TAMU is located on this recent visit.  It is a familiar, if not connecting sort of greeting.  Those university folks think they're so smart.

When we got back home on Wednesday from our babysitting, I went to my bank to complete the paperwork to buy a modest boat.  The officer I had been dealing with was gone for holiday vacation and I worked with the branch manager, a woman whose stories tied together the holiday vacation with a simple bow.

As is common for me, I ended up in a genuine, sharing, connected conversation with her and we talked about many holiday-like things.  Among the topics was that of her late dad, a man who never made it as far as high school but possessed great knowledge and wisdom.  She cited one particular piece of her father's wisdom, though she was not sure why it had become so important to her.  He had told her that whenever she felt uncomfortable when seeing or meeting someone, "if you can't think of anything to say, say 'howdy'."

Her eyes welled and she turned a bit saying, "I don't know why I remember that so much."  Perhaps because it is so important.

These are the holidays of gifts and emotions, stresses and strains, whole families and blended families, joy and sorrow, healing and hurt.  It is of new lives, special events, postponements, conversations, connection and re-connections.  It is a time of encountering strangers, and dealing with estrangements.  Perhaps the smart thing to say is the only thing to say in a way that communicates simple openness to life or  to the person in front of you.  Just smile, and say howdy.  It speaks of comfort and may make life a bit simpler, if just for a moment.



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   Listen to Life is a free newsletter about learning and getting more from life by paying attention to our own stories and the stories of others, based on the presentations, writings, photography and workshops by Dion McInnis (www.dionmcinnis.com).  Copyright 2010 Dion McInnis.  All rights reserved.

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