I received a letter the other day from a Christian missionary organization that really grabbed my attention. This group had started an outreach to women of another religion, and their main approach was to just say "hello!"
That simple concept of offering a greeting as a means of ministry to someone else has intrigued me.
I try to be friendly to others. I know that I always appreciate it when people are friendly with me. Let's face it; we all like courteous, gracious and nice friendly people.
The writer of The Book of Proverbs said, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."
A visiting family member commented to me one time that the people here in Shelbyville seemed so friendly. And I've heard it said that "southerners sure are friendly." And then, some people think that Christians are a friendly bunch too.
Well, not everybody in Shelbyville is friendly, and not all southerners are friendly either. And not all people who claim to be a Christian are friendly or even nice.
I've been in churches that I would classify as being friendly churches and I have been in churches that I would say were downright stingy with their niceties.
But, we can all try to be nicer and try to be friendly. We can start by just saying "hello" to people we meet on the street or at the grocery store or at the bank, work, or in church.
I remember as a young man visiting a church for the first time for a midweek Bible study. I was by myself and had never been to this particular church. As I entered the sanctuary people turned to stare at me and quickly turned away when they didn't recognize me. Maybe they didn't like the way I looked. I attempted to be friendly but those folks weren't friendly in return.
I was a little early and the Bible study hadn't started yet, so I went down to the front of the church and sat on the right hand side and waited. I could hear people coming in to the sanctuary behind me, but no one came to greet me, a stranger in their midst.
At starting time, the preacher came in a side door, picked up a small lectern and moved it to the left side of the sanctuary. He looked over at me and said in what seemed like a somewhat sarcastic tone, "Why don't you be friendly and move over here with everyone else?"
I turned around and noticed that the 15 or 20 people there were all seated on the left side, most of them toward the back of the church. No one bothered to tell me they always sat on the left; except this "unfriendly" preacher.
I never visited that church again. I certainly wasn't made to feel welcome, and I can honestly say that wasn't a very friendly church.
I think we can all do a better job of being warm and welcoming to others. A friendly person can really brighten someone else's day.
Maybe we all need to have a ministry of saying "hello!" Greet the greeter at the supercenter. Ask the clerk at the bank how they're doing today. Be kind to the checkout person at the grocery store. Even if those people aren't being friendly themselves, you can have a ministry to them, and maybe you can make a friend.
Managers in stores and businesses that deal with the public should be instructing their employees to be friendly to customers. But customers need to be friendly and courteous with those employees too.
Say "hello" to someone today. Greet a stranger. Show yourself friendly. You never know, a new friend could just be one "hello" away!
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.