Which would you prefer a smile or a 'Strazdvootia'?
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 30, 2005
I ended last week's column on "Hi!" by inviting you to share
greetings that are special to you. I suggested your good word just might
go a long way toward making the world a lot friendlier.
How I wish you could read all the responses that came in from our coffee
companions near and far. Here's just a sample:
IN THE OTTAWA Valley the traditional greeting is "G'day."
I have been greeting everyone I meet on my morning walk with "Good
morning." I generally get the same "Good morning" response.
I guess people get grouchier as the day goes on, or maybe morning people
are naturally friendlier. My "Good afternoon" or "Good
evening" is much less likely to generate a response.
Henry Heald, Ottawa
LEARNING A NEW language opened the door to an inspiring greeting for
another coffee companion:
YEARS AGO I took a difficult three-week German immersion course in
beautiful Salzburg, Austria. Even though I struggled with the language,
what I remember most about that time was the encouragement I received
by the wonderful Austrian greeting of "Grüss Gott!" The
closest translation that I could come up with was "God's greetings!"
It seemed to me to be a very cheery way to greet someone, and I especially
liked the thought that a stranger was giving me God's greetings.
And really, isn't that what happens when we say "Hi!" to
someone? We're acknowledging his/her presence to be a brief gift that
God has given us in that moment.
Janet McLean, Calgary
GINETTE AND TERRY Mitchell made Cochrane their home till this past summer,
when they moved to Moscow because of work. Like our other far-flung e-mail
coffee companions, they keep in touch with Cochrane through this column.
I AM MISSING the "Hi's" of Cochrane. Here in Moscow, the
word used is "strazdvootia," which is a very official "Hi."
The culture is very formal, especially with strangers. I have said hello
to the same people for several months and they still give me this formal
greeting as opposed to the more familiar "priviet." A bit
of a tough nut to crack.
Some attempt to shorten this rather long and difficult-to-pronounce
greeting by saying "strazd," but that's as far as it goes.
Once in a while I test the water by greeting the doorman of the nearby
Uzbek restaurant I walk by almost every day. His very serious demeanour
never seems to change, maybe a little shock on his face.
There is more of an emphasis, it seems, on becoming part of the "high
society," which I don't blame people for wanting.
Ginette Mitchell, Moscow, Russian Federation
NOT ALL GREETINGS have to be spoken, according to a former owner of
Cochrane's Poco Loco Pizza:
A FRIEND OF MINE, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, the renowned
motivational speaker, had a unique way of promoting friendliness. He
would go up to someone and say, "Thank you for your smile."
If they were smiling they would beam even broader and make a return
comment. If they were not smiling, they would feel indebted and give
out the smile they had been thanked for in advance and everyone would
Ken Harder, Calgary
THAT'S CERTAINLY the experience of a reader from Illinois:
I LIKE TO GET people to smile back when I smile at them. When I get
the return smile I nod in acknowledgement and we both feel better.
Today was a typical day. I had just entered a large store and was
walking up an aisle. An elderly woman who seemed very depressed was
being pushed in a wheelchair by another lady. There was no interaction
between them. Because I have MS I sometimes have to use a wheelchair
myself. I am well aware of how easy it is to become nonexistent to the
world. I put on one of my biggest, happiest smiles and directed it toward
the elderly woman. It took her a couple of seconds to realize it was
just for her. The smile she returned to me was so wondrous it made my
day. All her inner beauty glowed in her beautiful smile.
Yes, a smile is my way of saying "Hi." It has started some
wonderful conversations and made lots of friendships.
Kathy Bibber, Chicago
OUR FINAL WORD is from Don Cornell, of Amherst, New York. "How
about the Hebrew greeting, 'Shalom'?" he asked. "Shalom"
means "peace," and this old world could sure use lots of that
© 2005 Warren Harbeck
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