“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”   –Proverbs 15:30

Today I received the sweetest hug from someone I didn’t even know, and I think it’s just because I said ‘hello’. 

My boys and I had gone to the YMCA. We went to the gym to see if it was available because my older son wanted to shoot baskets during his brother’s swim lesson.  When we looked in, I saw a young man sitting on a bench against the wall.  About an hour and a half later, we stopped back into the gym so my son could show me basketball shots he’d been practicing.  I was surprised to see the same young man still sitting on the bench.  When I got closer to him I could see that he had Downs Syndrome (or something similar).  He continued to sit motionless while my son took his shots.  After a few minutes I leaned over to say ‘hello’ to him.  He looked up at me, surprised at first, then a huge smile took over his face.  He gave me a nod in response to my greeting.  “Are you having a good day?”, I asked.  He continued to smile as he nodded yes.  Then he went back to watching my son shoot the basketball and I did the same, saying nothing else.  A few minutes later he got up and came over to me with his arms opened wide for a hug.  He put both arms around me, layed his head on my shoulder, and gave me the sweetest hug!  I thanked him and asked his name.  He seemed to mouth the word, “Ken”.  So I said, “Hello, Ken.  It’s nice to meet you.”  With that said he got a ‘touched’ look on his face, took my hand in his, and kissed it!  Now it was my turn to be surprised!  Then he hugged me once more and left the gym. 

I was touched by the sweetness of his gestures, but also saddened in a way.  All I’d done was say ‘hello’, but you’d have thought I’d just made his biggest wishes come true.  Do people not usually speak to him or acknowledge him?  If not, that’s really sad. 

My thoughts recalled a similar incident that happened in our neighborhood recently.  While I was out walking, I passed an older man walking on the opposite side of the road.  I sent a cheery “hello!” to him as we passed.  I couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t look like ‘most people’ in our neighborhood.  You could tell by his response to me that he was surprised I’d spoken to him.  I wondered if people usually just walked past him without acknowledging him.  He quickly returned my greeting and stopped to say, “God bless you!  God bless you, maam!  God bless you!”   He hadn’t hugged me with his arms like my new friend, Ken, but his response was a hug with his words.  I returned his verbal kindness by saying, “God bless you, too!”  Then we each resumed our walking and went our separate ways.

I remember thinking about how my simple greeting of ‘hello’ seemed to make his day.  The same was true with Ken.

The incident with Ken was quite a learning lesson for my sons and I.  We saw how important it is to acknowledge everyone we meet – regardless of what their appearance might tell us about them.  It also showed us how powerful the simplest acts of kindness can be, especially that of saying just one word, ‘hello’. 

I often pray that God will use me somehow to bless others as He has blessed me.  Perhaps these were opportunities to do just that.  The interesting thing was that these moments were blessings to me, too! 

Is there someone along your way who could use a kind word or greeting?