So many people have asked what life in Idaho is like; what we first noticed about it. And ‘hello’ is the answer. A single word, with such a big impact.
Last June, when Pat and I arrived in Sandpoint for the first time, we made a quick stop at the Safeway in town to grab a few essentials before heading out to the house. We were exhausted, but split up and went our own way to gather the items we each needed, so that made it much easier. As I moved through the aisles, I was greeted by each and every stranger. They made eye contact with me. They said hi, or hello. And they even stepped aside and let me pass first when we converged a few times. It sounds so simple, and not something that should be out of the ordinary, but it was.
Although Southern California has the reputation of being ‘laid back,’ our lifestyle is anything but that, in my opinion. And it often borders on being frenetic as we race from one event to another. People rarely have the time ~ or make the time ~ to greet a stranger or ask a store clerk how their day is going. And if two strangers make eye contact, often it seems that a wariness passes between them, and they quickly glance away. And all of this only happens, of course, if they look up from their cell phones long enough!
If you know me, you know I have the ‘gift of gab,’ as they say! This gift did not come from my shy mom. Nope, our outgoing, boisterous dad did a great job of teaching his four daughters how to talk to anyone in any environment about anything. And it’s a trait I so greatly appreciate and has helped me tremendously in my life. So I typically have been someone who does regularly make eye contact with strangers, says hello, or asks store clerks about their day. But I will be honest, this openness has led to some not so great experiences with people at times. So over the last few years, I’ve curbed my open nature a bit. I’ve become a bit more cautious, a bit more like those I mentioned above who allow a wariness to come to the surface.
The list of polite and friendly people grew and grew throughout our long stay up there. We learned that there is a caring and genuine nature in the people of our new hometown. There is a deep sense of community, and everyone takes pride in being a North Idahoan, and American, and sincerely appreciate connecting with others. I had some wonderfully spontaneous conversations with store clerks and others, and I learned so much about our town and found some great hikes, restaurants, etc. based on recommendations. But mostly, I learned about the wonderful people we now call neighbors.
So my lesson was learned. We came back to our SoCal home a month ago, and I decided to put my latest, cautious attitude aside. I wanted to be myself again. To greet people, make eye contact, say hello and hopefully make their day a little brighter as our northern friends did for me. And it’s been an interesting experience.
Most recently, I took a walk at the Oceanside Harbor. It was a busy Saturday morning, so lots of people to greet. Some flat out ignored my hellos, others were cautious, but responded, and many replied with a warm smile and returned my greeting. And I know my day was brighter and lighter having received those hellos and smiles in return. What goes around, comes around.
I started to do some research for this post on the power of a smile, and here is a link to the first and only article I read. It was enough to cement the idea that our human connection all starts with hello. Hope you enjoy it!