I heard an old “Beatles” song the other day. One of the verses goes, “I don’t know why you say good-bye, I say hello.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that like many pop songs it’s about unrequited love. But hellos and good-byes are also different sides of the same coin. All through our life we say hello and good-bye, frequently at the same time.
The young mother at birth greets her child with one of the most important hellos that child will ever experience. She says good-bye however to breathing the same air and nurturing in a way only a woman can understand.
This process continues as we know. Infants do little but eat and sleep – but soon they are saying hello to other things – that intensely interesting piece of fuzz underneath the kitchen table or the water in the dog’s dish. Good-bye to mom or dad soon is spoken by the two year old when they say “By myself.”
The length of a city block seems immense when you’re small. What power there is in little legs when the first “Big Wheels” tears down to the next corner! The yard used to be the limits of a kind of natural wonderland. Acorns that taste bitter, worms crawling in rich dark soil turned over for spring planting, and playmates in the sand box. Suddenly the sturdy legs take you to the end of the block where “Coco” lives in the distant house across the asphalt chasm.
I still have in my mind a photograph of a little boy in the fall of 1951 heading off down a small town street to the elementary school in Gilman, Minnesota. It wasn’t far to St. Adalberts, but it was a huge distance for a little person, a taking on of new experiences and farewell to a life of play every day.
Adolescence approaches with a great deal of ambivalence. Great forces propel a young person from dependence to independence. There are many firsts – first dance, first date, first kiss, first love, and first broken heart. Farewell to continuity and sure things. We change, others change – a very important lesson.
We have many friendships. Sharing of one’s Barbie dolls, Legos or M&M’s is departing from a world where I count alone to where others have a place. What is Barbie’s best hairdo, how big a castle can we make with yours and mine together and what a wonderful mess chocolate makes when shared.
Giving joy and sharing pain are also a part of friendships as we grow older. And sometimes these relationships end like a foul ball in the air, just hanging out there, or terminate in the heat of a verbal barrage. Good-bye again, hello to sorrow.
The ultimate equalizer is always present whether we care to be conscious of it or not. Some people go howling and screaming – others welcome the darkness.
Take a quarter into your hand and turn it over slowly. The good-bye of one side and hello of the other has the same value – it’s still a quarter. We get older, a little more weary and wary of life’s comings and goings. Politician’s promises and the “good life” seem a little hollow to a man or woman turning that coin. Wisdom for us is knowing we will be welcoming and waving farewell all our life.