“Good Morning”: A Theory

The random encounter with the grumpy woman in the library got me thinking about the 1998 movie Patch Adams. (For the record, I am in disbelief that this movie is thirteen years old.)

Two things came to mind, actually, but the first is the most relevant to this discussion. It was the scene in which Patch tests out his smile theory, claiming that if we take the time to make eye contact and smile at complete strangers it will nearly always result in a reciprocated smile. As Patch and Truman wander around smiling and greeting strangers, we as viewers smile, too. It’s a good scene, even worth rewatching the whole movie for, and since there are no YouTube clips, you’ll either have to do so, or try to conjure up a memory from thirteen years ago, or trust me.

I like this smile theory, and it won’t surprise you to learn that I now have a “good morning” theory I want to test out.

The question I want to answer is this–if I start saying “good morning” to folks at moments when I would rather just walk on by and ignore them, what percentage of those people would respond with a friendly greeting? I’m banking on at least 75%.

I’ve started testing it out, though not very mathematically, nor very successfully. But I’m working on it.

In fact, I’ve realized something already. There are certain strangers with whom we interact that make it natural and practically required to greet in a friendly “good morning” sort of way. Bank tellers, for instance. In these cases, I’ve adjusted the theory to take it one further step. In the cases where a greeting is already expected, I will ask how the person is doing. And not just in an I-don’t-really-want-to-hear-your-answer sort of way. I’ll look at the person and wait for an answer. Patiently.

I have hit some bumps on the road to testing out the theory, but more on that later.

What I’m hoping for are some other thoughtful theory-testers. Yes. That means you.

Are you willing to try it with me? Say “good morning” to just one stranger today? Or two? Or ten? Or ask the check-out person at the pharmacy how he’s doing–and mean it? Or look someone in the eye even when it’s uncomfortable and smile?

Come on. What have you got to lose?

(By the way, for those of you who were wondering what the “second thing” was I mentioned above, well, it was  that difficult scene towards the end when we discover that Patch’s girlfriend Carin has been murdered by someone she was trying to help. Patch feels guilty about this, because he is the one who “taught her the medicine” that ended up resulting in her death. As I thought about this scene, I realized that the medicine he taught her, despite the film’s focus on humor, was not laughter but love. He taught her how to love.)

Excuses, Schmexcuses: Loving Our Neighbors, Loving Ourselves

Advent is here, friends. Today, my little family will be putting together the sad Christmas tree that has endeared itself to us over the years. We might put some greenery on the mantle. Drink some hot cocoa. We’ve even got an Advent playlist with about a half-dozen versions of O Come, O Come Emmanuel on it.

It’s New Years Day as far as the church is concerned, so let’s celebrate!

This morning in church, the Thanksgiving baskets our church distributed last week in our community were mentioned and thanks were given to everyone who donated. This morning in church, we were told about the work the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is doing overseas and we were encouraged to give to the annual Christmas missions offering. This morning in church, I was handed a packet of paper with information about a low-income family in our community, a family our Sunday school class will be providing gifts for this holiday season. This morning in church, we were reminded about the myriad activities we’ve got going on throughout Advent and Christmas, the ways we can participate and give and do lots of good.

My point is this: we are doing lots of good in the world. Let’s take a moment and pat ourselves on the back, shall we?

*pat, pat*


Like I’m letting us off the hook that easy.

Sure, we are doing lots of good. We are. I am. You probably are, too.

But since it’s the first Sunday of Advent, and it’s kind of Texas Schmexas tradition to toss a little guilt in to start off the year, let’s be introspective for a moment and ‘fess up.

We aren't really loving our neighbors as ourselves.*

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Sharing God’s Love & Tex-Mex Lasagna

Last night we spontaneously invited some people over for dinner.

I made a big, 13×9 pan of Tex-Mex lasagna, and at 5:00 when I looked at that big, ol’ thing I decided we needed to share it. Three people joined us, and we had a great evening. Our kids were goofy, conversation was lively, and leftovers were sent home with the guests. And all the food I made was not only edible but yummy, so that’s a plus.

The best part was how seamlessly it happened.

I know it doesn’t always work like that, but I’m thankful that I could easily invite people over without stressing too much about the details. I will confess to suddenly worrying that the food was going to be awful and spot cleaning my rather dirty floor. But I’m glad I thought about asking people to come and then quickly followed through on the idea.

That's part of living in community for me.

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Community = Limited

Community can be defined different ways, and I consider my extended family, friends who live on the other side of the world, and even people I only know on the Internet to be parts of my community.

But there is something about the people 
you can touch, eat with, and live with.

Video chat is amazing but it’s not the same as being able to hug someone or talking face to face.

We live in a compound in Saudi Arabia. My tangible community is limited to the people in the compound or people my husband Stephen meets at work. It is very easy to only spend time with people I like and simply avoid anyone else. I cannot drive here (no women are allowed to drive), so I only go out with my family, in a taxi we’ve arranged with friends or on the compound bus for a weekly grocery trip. Being on the bus is the only time I have to interact with people I haven’t specifically chosen to be with.

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Mission, Schmission: Say That Ten Times Fast

If you hang out with people who’ve gone to or taught at a seminary during the last ten years, or maybe if you just hang out with a certain kind of church folk, you’re probably aware of the trendiness of certain Christian words. Usually there are churches built around them, church conferences planned around them, and lots of books written with them in their titles. Recently words like community, emerging or emergent, koinonia, intentional, or relevant might make it on such a list.

Another one of those words is “missional,” as in, the missional church or missional living. (If you aren’t one of those people mentioned above, you might be thinking, “What the heck does ‘missional’ mean?” And that’s okay. You’re in good company. Back in 2008, after “missional” had started popping up “everywhere,” Christianity Today featured an article about what the heck it means. For more information, you can also check in with the all-knowing Wikipedia.)

I’m sure there are quite a few long, well-thought-out books written about why the contemporary church has shifted away from thinking solely of “missions” as sending money or people overseas or “missionary” as only a full-time sharer of the Gospel in a foreign land.

I haven’t read them, but I, for one, am glad we’re in this new place, a broader understanding of “missions.” Now, I’m not saying I don’t support overseas mission work: of course I do. The hubster was even in Honduras over spring break working in an afterschool program. We support people we know–friends in Haiti and other far flung places–and people and work we don’t know.

But I am not called to move my family overseas, and I’m not called to only–only–give money to support the mission work of others. I’m called to do mission myself. In my everyday life. Here in the middle of America. With my neighbors.

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Aluminum Foil, Carnations, and the Hard Work of Being Valentines

I’ve never been one to make a big deal about Valentine’s Day.

Okay, maybe not never.

I do remember making decorative boxes for exchanging valentines in elementary school and secretly hoping  the various boys I had crushes on would leave me some sort of clue that they also liked me. It never happened because, of course, everybody in elementary school is required by their parents to give a valentine to everyone else in the class.

In junior high, you could send carnations to your special someone or just your friends, which is what most people do. I remember, though, getting one from this boy I kind of knew, and his message said, “I think you’re pretty great.”

It made me feel pretty great.

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Pappy Sands, the Stories We Tell, & Remembering the Good

Pap2My Pappy Sands passed away on Sunday night, January 27th.

Alzheimers had slowly been stealing him from us for more than a year, but his sudden, rapid decline in recent days caught us by surprise. At Christmas, his family had gathered around him to sing carols together–and he sang along, knowing the words. In fact, when I greeted him in December, he kidded with me about wanting to call me Betty. Maybe it was confusion. Or maybe he was cracking jokes. Either way, he was in good spirits.

Pappy Sands and Grandma Bev, his wife, owned a campground in New Hampshire. Throughout my childhood, we often drove the nine-hour trip north through the night to visit in the summer, especially over my birthday, the day before Independence Day. Flipping through his old photo albums, there were an inordinate number of me opening birthday presents year after year after year.

Pappy and Grandma were snowbirds in the winter, and eventually retired to Florida. We frequently drove south to Florida–again through the night–to celebrate the Christmas holiday in the warmer weather.

So yes, lots of pictures of those Christmases, too. One year, for some unknown reason, I had a Christmas sticker on my forehead in every single photo. Why I put it there in the first place, I don’t know. Why nobody insisted I remove it after the first few photos, I really don’t know.

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