i have several idiosyncrasies, and i suppose some might say that makes me an idiot, and maybe they wouldn't be wrong. who knows? but whether or not i am in idiot is not germane to this particular post. instead, i want to talk about the way i greet people, and what it says about the world.
we all have our way of saying hello. if we greet a good friend out on the street, we may embrace, or at least shake hands and grin and engage in conversation, but if you pass someone you do not know on the sidewalk, or in a store, or while changing clothes at the gym, how do you say hello? some may give a cheerful "good morning," or afternoon or evening, whatever the case may be. some may choose not to greet at all. there are some who engage in that traditional exchange, "how are you?" which is meant to induce the response, "fine, and you?" others may simply nod, but there's nothing simple about the nod as a gesture, since it can be accomplished in a variety of ways. one may sharply nod the head downward, in a staccato gesture of recognition, or slowly raise the head upwards, as if to raise the countenance in blessing. there are even those who practice double nods, or vigorous head shaking, but those people are generally over-friendly and a bit creepy.
and then there's me. when i greet someone that i don't know, i proclaim out loud, and with a certain kind of assurance in my voice, "alright." it isn't so much an exclamation as it is a declaration. and it may be in a response to "how ya' doin'?" or it may not. i will often nod to the stranger, and before they say anything at all, i offer a decisive, "alright" as if answering a question they might have had in their minds but chose not to speak aloud. i don't use the word "alright" with a tone that suggests that things are nearly good nor bad, but just sort of in between. instead, i use a tone which suggests that all is right.
the other day i was leaving the gym, cold and sweaty in the bitter winter air, and i was passing a man who was on his way into the gym. we shared quick nods, and while i was finishing my nod, in that brief nanosecond of greeting, i uttered my standard greeting, "alright." as i got into my vehicle to to leave, i began to reflect on this greeting of mine. why do i do this? why do i seem to answer a question that hasn't been asked? and then it occurred to me.
my distinct way of greeting isn't simply an answer to an unspoken question about the state of my being, but it is a succinct way for me to speak the truth of what i believe. it is, in fact, a confession of my faith, and a kind of creed, however brief. i may only get one word to speak to this human being, and i so i say "alright." it is to say, in only one word, that everything is going to be alright. that despite the cracks in this sidewalk we are walking on, and the sweat and blood that build it; despite the plants and animals that cannot live because we need to park here, and despite the brokenness that limits our relationship to a staccato nod and a hopeful word, i believe that everything is going to be alright. it is one word that, at least to me, as i proclaim it to strangers outside and doubts inside, affirms my hope in redemption, resurrection, and renewal. it's not just that i'm alright. it's that the world is going to be alright in the end, because of love.
you may think it is a nod and a bit of an odd greeting. but it is so much more! it is my worldview in a nutshell, a kind of good-news-telling soundbite. it is a hopeful word uttered carefully, not idly, into a broken universe. i might shout it from an ocean shore, or into a mountain valley, as much as utter it to a passerby. it is my stubborn faith, finding its way to the surface: it's going to be alright.
so maybe i am just an idiot. but at least i am an idiot with a hopeful word.