Life is a Series of Hello’s and Goodbye’s

There are many people who have been very important to me at some point in my life.   At different points in my life, my days revolved around these people.  But my life is stretching into its sixth decade now, and I have lived in four states and ten cities.  I have met people from all over the world.  I currently converse with friends on four continents.  There have been a lot of hello’s in my life.  But there have also been a lot of goodbyes.

When one closes a chapter of one’s life, it is like a funeral.  It’s not that I stop loving the people whom I have met and grown to love.  It’s that I know I will probably never see them again.  I know that they will go on without me, and that their lives will turn into something that I would not recognize, nor would I fit in it any longer.  My life also will become a different life.  So, the people whom I once knew are as good as dead to me, and I to them.  Sometimes this makes me very sad.  But I know there is an afterlife, so I hope I will meet them again.  Not unlike when a love-one dies.

It’s been said that you can’t go back again.  It’s true.  People grow and change.  If you are not there to grow and change with them, how can you possibly relate to them any longer?  Sure, there are people whom I have bumped into after many, many years, and have renewed a friendship with.  But even then, it’s not the old relationship.  One of my best friends of the last ten years is a man whom I went to school with 25 years ago.  He was married then, so we didn’t speak much in school.  We got together a few times after we were re-acquainted.  But it was just cordial.  Then his wife died.  Over the next few years we were inseparable.  He helped me more than he will ever know, and I’m sure I helped him in a very difficult time.  Then, one day, he asked me to be the best man; he had met a new woman to love.  I was overjoyed for him.  At the same time I knew that the wedding would also be the funeral of our relationship.  I was not sad, though.  It’s just the way life goes.  As Billy Joel would say, “I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.”

I have been blessed to know 10,000 people in my lifetime.  But I have discovered that I am no better off than people who are born and die and never leave small towns.  Maybe they only know a small number of people in their lives.  But it’s not the number of relationships that determines a person’s fortune so much as the quality of those relationships.  A life-long friend brings stability and peace to one’s life. Long-term neighbors give one a sense of community.  Community is something that few young people have ever had the pleasure to experience, at least in America.  Cars allows us to zoom right through neighborhoods without ever having to meet our neighbors.  Churches, once the center of the community, are now consigned to one hour on Sunday.  We still call it a church family, but it doesn’t spill over into our lives much to become our community.

The rise of the internet has, I believe, skewed our understanding of reality.  We are all so desperate for friends, that we search the internet for different kinds of groups and communities to join.  We spend all day texting and checking Facebook, hoping to connect with a friendly face.  What we don’t seem to realize is that there are crowds of people outside our front doors with real faces.  They are our real neighbors.  They could be our real community.  But we don’t seem to believe that such a community can exist any more.  Why take the time to get to know the neighbors when they will probably just move in five years?

The internet is an electronic illusion.  Sure, there will be some lifelong friends that find each other online.  But, in large part, it’s just another series of hello’s and goodbye’s to faceless strangers.  For a brief moment, they matter.  Then a new friend or circumstance arises, and the old acquaintance fades out of the picture.  One day, we think to ourselves, “I wonder what ever happened to so-and-so?”  But then, the traffic light turns green, and we speed away, once more concentrating on something more important.

I am thankful for all the people I have met in my life, even the ones I can’t really remember.  They have all enriched me in some way.  Even those who tried to ruin me are responsible for shaping who I am today.  As I look back over the years and the miles, I hope that I have, in some small way, enriched the lives that I have touched.  I pray that the lives I am touching now will be changed for the better in some way.  And I hope in the future to be able to touch more lives, and share more experiences with more people.  Life really is a series of hello’s and goodbye’s.  It’s impossible to have the one without the other.  But I will take the goodbye’s because the hello’s are worth it.  Truly it has been said, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

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