Hello tops my list of words

What’s in a word? I’m not sure who said that, but Shakespeare penned the phrase a rose by any other name. . . .
I am fond of a lot of words: giggle, yikes, popcorn, and enchanted, to name a few. I especially like words that adhere to the principal of onomatopoeia (remember that from language lessons in school?)
Onomatopoeia. Great word; not easy to spell. I almost get a brain cramp trying to remember what order the letters come in.
It means, in case you’ve forgotten, words that imitate the sound of the thing or action they refer to. The classic: slither or buzz.
I’m sure it is coming back to you now.
Of all my favourite words, I’d have to say that hello tops the list. Hello. Say it out loud. Hello. Stretch it out and you can almost hear the echo.
We can substitute hi, and a head nod, a smile, a tip of the hat, but hello is truly a gift. It sounds welcoming. It says you belong.
Onomatopoeia.
I’ve moved a lot over the years; moved from the northern part of this massive province. Pickle Lake is north, believe me.
Moving is exciting—a fresh start, an adventure for sure. But it often is a lonely undertaking during the adjustment phase. I’ve moved to communities where I knew not a single soul. I was just a face walking down the street; a nameless face.
I envied the “Hi, Joe, how’s it goin’?” from across the street, and Joe’s arm shooting up in response. I’ve envied the personal discussion at the post office about what’s for supper even though it lengthened my wait.
I’ve eavesdropped on conversations at the bank and hardware store, not for the content of the chats but the sound—the sound of knowing someone; knowing his mother, her sister, their children.
We’re all on the move these days it seems. Young people are migrating like penguins, jumping into the sea, sure about a destination they’ve never seen. Something just tells them to go.
Families are spreading out and sometimes, though not always, our sense of community is compromised; certainly challenged. My brother and I live on the east coast, my sister and my mother and my daughter on the west coast, with three of my daughters somewhere in between.
Friends become my family, but many of us don’t have our cousins twice removed and 43 uncles on our father’s side to whom we can salute when we are downtown. So hello is a treasured gift.
I can recall my most favourite hello. It was 1987. Main Street. Stayner. Marion Orr.
“Wendi,” Marion called from across the street. “Hello!” The sound bounced off the buildings and street lights, and settled right down on my skin.
Hello. It stopped me right in my tracks and I closed my eyes and felt its warmth settle on my skin.
I met Marion at church as I slipped into the back pew a week or so after I moved from the north to Stayner. She took my hand in hers. “You must be new in town,” she said and introduced herself.
I mumbled my name, shyness getting the better of me. The next week, her friendly voice called across the street to me. I nearly wept, nearly fell to my knees to thank her for her simple but kind gesture that pulled me out of that place called loneliness.
I was no longer a stranger; I was someone with a name.
The same has happened here in Wolfville, N.S.. I go to the grocery store, to the farmers’ market, to the library, and it seems my head is slightly tilted waiting to hear that wonderful greeting. I watch faces for recognition, for signs of familiarity.
We all want to belong, to fit in, to find a spot in the crowd—our spot. We all want to be welcomed.
I say hello every opportunity I get now, especially to the face turned down, to the tentative smile, and I am forever grateful for Marion Orr.
wendistewart@live.ca

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