Last week I challenged you to say hello to 5 strangers. The point of the challenge is for us to become more aware of those around us. I hope it helped you do just that and I encourage you to continue with it.  hello

I had a couple of interesting encounters but mostly I say “hey” and smile and the other person does the same. Some people don’t say anything but smile as they walk past me. I’ve noticed if I’m waiting in line and say hello a conversation usually takes place.

I met Edna at my local library. She’s an older woman with white hair. She told me she can’t type very well.

I also met Mr.Grocery Guy. Although I didn’t get his name, I found out that he’s working on his degree in finance and he turned down a great intern opportunity to marry the love of his life. He and his love are now divorced after 2 years of marriage. I told him I was sorry and he told me it was okay. He is back on track with his finance career goals. I learned all of this while he was helping me get my groceries to my car. I told him good luck with his endeavors and he said a hearty “thank you”.

The most interesting conversation was with a young mother in the parking lot at the library. I noticed her talking on her cellphone very loudly and I smiled at her. When I came out of the library she stopped me as she was driving out of the parking lot. She apologized for her shouting. She explained that she doesn’t always do that. Then she shared more about her situation. Her husband is out of work and instead of going with her to look for a job like he was supposed to, he went with his friends to make a drug run. I put my hand on hers and asked her name, then her husband’s name. I told her I was sorry about what she’s going through and she drove off.

I’m unsure of why she felt like she needed to tell me all of that.

Except this: she wants someone to know. She wants to feel less alone in her fight. Her heart is breaking for her children and she needs to know someone cares. She needs hope.

Do these encounters matter? I think so. I know they matter to me. They keep me connected to others and their hurts. While I’m worrying what to fix for dinner the young mother from the library parking lot is worrying for the safety of her children. That shakes me up. It forces me to get out of my comfortable middle class world and get out there and do something…..anything that can help give people hope.

There’s lots of ways to help. Serving meals to the homeless, giving to your local church or non-profit that help those in need, volunteering at your local schools, tutoring kids, mentoring younger people, visiting nursing home residents are all ways to make a difference. Or you could buy a house in a deprived neighborhood, fix it up, and live there. I have friends who are doing this. They’re living right where the help is needed, building relationships and making a difference in that neighborhood.

It’s called living on purpose. It’s called living like it matters.

And it can start with hello.

I will issue another challenge soon.  Until then, keep saying hello.