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When greetings grab hold

Tis the season for appreciating just how valuable – and vital – greetings are.

We reflexively offer up “season's greetings” to people we meet, and greeting cards are everywhere, ensuring our greetings get to people we can't be with.

But we tend to overlook the power we unleash when we do that. In our heart-felt greetings, we're sharing our joy and appreciation for another person's presence in the world. And, gulp, that can be scary.

You may know someone who is reticent about greetings. They don't extend a hand, they don't even make eye contact. Opening themselves to you makes them feel terrifyingly vulnerable.

I have this thing for greetings because they reveal so much about the greeter. For me it started with this quote by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.”

I had never considered simply greeting someone as being a function of love. And yet, it most certainly is. I write in “It's Hard Being You” about the generosity involved in preparing for a guest's arrival. As a host, “Simply greeting people warmly and fully is so generous. You’re saying: I see you. I appreciate you. I want to make room for you in this moment.”

Luckily, this kind of interaction can also take place from a distance, and that is what has enthralled me this season. Some members of The World Enders: Lord Huron Fan Club organize a greeting card exchange every year. And they put their all into the effort, designing the cards and the messages. Here's a social media post from one participant (name omitted for privacy):

“The year has again been tough for me, but for weeks/months I have been so looking forward to the card exchange... It brought me joy writing and sending them off. Getting cards in return is the highlight of my week... It's special being part of this group, and I know each one of us has struggles; everyone is always so kind, generous, beautiful human beings. May you live until you die.”

There you have it: The power you can unleash with a greeting.

Put yourself out there this holiday season and embrace the awkwardness. You might change someone's world.

Card design and photo credit: Jamie Lee Sullivan


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