Hello and Hey

I have not one, but two stories to tell you tonight. Keep in mind that both of these events happened over the course of one day (aka today) and both are true.

Here’s the first one:

There’s an older gentleman who runs in my neighborhood. I’m not sure how old he is specifically, but let’s say that he was probably able to vote for President Truman. (And in case you’re not likely to do the math, that’s pretty old.) Yet, I sometimes see him running twice a day and in every kind of weather. And he has time to say hello. Living in the time that we all do, I don’t always get a “hello” from anyone. Actually, I don’t even get the little wave when I let someone driving go before me. A “hello” is about as rare as finding a $20 bill in the mall parking lot. So, imagine my surprise when I’m going out to my car this morning, and I hear such a quiet, little “hello” from the man always running down my less than quiet street. I returned the “hello” and walked back in the house, grinning from the kind start to my day.

Here’s the second one:

I like to take walks with my mom at night. We walk a good distance through the neighborhood. We see a lot of people coming home, taking out the trash, turning on sprinklers. And we also see people speeding. We feel cars whiz by us, and the sidewalk always feels too narrow. But we make do, walking side by side, keeping away from the road. That is, until tonight, when some bro screamed “HEY” at us from his buddy’s car. I clutched my invisible pearls and jumped a little into the air. I looked up to glare at the passing car and heard both occupants chuckling as they sped away, gaining what, I don’t know, from scaring two women (as if men don’t do that all day, every day!). I was silently fuming the entire way home.

Now, as a reminder, both of these events happened in one day, today. One “Hello” and one “Hey.” But such different messages. One made me believe in karma and one made me wish for it.

For me, it’s hard to reconcile these events. How can people be so nice and so cruel in the same span of time?

And then I realized what I was confronted with: a physical embodiment of the human condition.

In short, there are going to be people who will go out of their way to be nice. And then there are going to be people who will think it’s funny to torture complete strangers. And sometimes, both reactions are going to come from the same person (although I would argue that what separates both people in this case is maturity).

But that’s what humans are. We’re this swirling mass of impulses, both good and bad. We have the I should say hello instinct, and we also have the let’s scream “hey” at these people instinct. One will always win out. Thankfully, both probably won’t win out in a single day in two different people, like they did to me. But maybe they’ll fight the same battle in you.

And as much as you can, try to feed the “hello” impulse. I, and your neighborhood, will thank you.

Do It For The Story

This was both the slogan and the excuse during college.

Wait, you have a test tomorrow? No, no, no, dude. DUDE. We need to rob a bank, grab some corn dogs, jump the fence to the community center, and draw mustaches on all of the “Rent-a-Cop” posters. 

And any sensible person would at least ask why. But your friends already knew the answer: It’s so that you can be the coolest person at the party, strangers gathered around, beer in one hand and the other hand slightly raised in the air, describing how you scaled the fence to the community center only to find that your best friend was hanging from his underwear at the top. Like your friend, all of the people at the party are also hanging: on your every word.

And really, this isn’t news. Humans have a long oral history. We love stories. It’s how we communicate dangers, humor, and understanding. We are completely fascinated with telling others what has happened to us in order to warn them or simply make them laugh.

But that’s the key. To tell a story, you need an audience.

Which brings me directly to my point. You can have all the money in the world. You can jet-set to Japan to see the sunrise only to race back to New York to see it again. You can wear bikinis in Hawaii and parkas in Alaska in the same weekend. You can rub elbows, and maybe even noses, with celebrities. You can buy a mansion and have a wing just for your dog. You can invest that money, donate it to charity, and make it all back again.

And that would be great, truly. But it wouldn’t mean anything without someone to talk to about all of your adventures, all of your experiences, all of your fears. It would mean nothing if you couldn’t share it with at least one other person (romantically or platonically).

You see, as a young person who is not entirely sure what she wants to do with this box of chocolates we call life, I’ve always figured that if I had enough money, all of my problems would be solved. I could travel the world, like I want to. I could buy a house and rescue all of the homeless dogs, like I want to. I could feed the hungry and make a difference, like I want to. Yes, I could eat lots of corn dogs, like I want to.

But in the end, what would it amount to if I couldn’t tell my story to someone? Is a sunrise seen alone as sweet as one shared? For that matter, is a corn dog?

That’s a lesson this social media generation can relate to: “pictures or it didn’t happen.” Well, your life is one snapshot in a billion. If there is no one to appreciate its beauty, does it really matter that it happened?

And I know, it’s sort of like a “if a tree fell in a forest” argument, but I wonder if I didn’t have life already figured out in college, when I did everything for the story. I wonder if I’m not trying to complicate everything now that I’ve graduated.

The point is, you can rob a bank, eat corn dogs, and draw mustaches on unsuspecting Rent-A-Cops. But if you have no one to talk to, no one to laugh or cry with, no one to enjoy the stories of your life with, you have nothing.

In the end, it isn’t what we leave behind. It’s who we leave behind, and what we shared with them that truly matters. Write your story and make it a good one so that others will want to share it, too.