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"Saying Hello Can Go A Long Way"

This morning I had a wonderful conversation with a very nice young woman. I never met her before. We met in a local delicatessen. She came in seemingly a little frustrated about the busyness of people and I just said something in jest about the NY culture. She looked at me and laughed. Just seeing her smile told me I had connected with her on some small level. It was wonderful seeing this lady's joy radiate from her face. Normally after you say something to someone, the person acknowledges what you said but, then, quickly goes about what he/she was doing. But that didn't happen on this occasion. Our conversation was natural and quite meaningful.

I mention this because most NY 'ers don't talk to strangers. In fact it's rare that people from this part of the country look you in the eyes. I always try to initiate some form of eye contact with people and, if they look at me, I'll say hello. I know this may sound strange to some of you in other parts of the country or overseas, but this is a fact.

My brief time with this young lady reminded me of my father. It's always been a running joke in our family that wherever we went - whether it be a restaurant, a gas station, a local bank, or some public setting - someone knew my father by his first name and he knew theirs. There was a time my father took my younger brother Tad and I to Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets. Actually, we were going to my grandfather's home first and, then, later to the Met's game. We were already about twenty minutes away from our home when Dad decided to stop somewhere to get something for breakfast. As we went into the restaurant, a young African American man spoke from behind the counter, "Hey Joe. So good to see you this morning." Dad responded with, "Hey, John. So nice to see you." Tad and I looked at each other with amazement. This seemed to occur wherever we went.

The web banner above is representative of my father's life. Although there was always so much going on around him, his life brought a certain tranquility into the lives of others. His presence caused others to stop for just a moment and catch a much needed breather. Sometimes it was his sense of humor that brought about a smile or a hearty laugh. Whatever their response was, there was no question - he touched a certain chord.

Whether we're aware of it or not, our lives affect those around us. We can be a source of encouragement or a source of irritation to others. We can bring out the best in others or bring out their worst. Just like my father's life brought out the best in people, the lake above affects me in some small fashion. There is a certain serenity felt as I look at the reflection. There's a stillness I desire within my own life, a place where I can experience true rest and be alone with God, a place where I can " listen" to my own life.

Even now, my world is moving at a pace much faster than I ever anticipated or even desire. As I sit and write this small piece, there are many things weighing on my heart. Yet, as I look at the magnificent view above and sense the peace atop that lake, I see that my father had a similar affect on me and so many others. There were times in my life when I had to go through something I didn't want to face. But after spending a few moments with my father, he always put things in their proper hierarchy, giving me a much healthier perspective. There was a certain calmness which came about from our time together. It was that feeling that no matter what was going on in my world, it would be ok.

Come to think of it, his very last words to me offer a similar reassurance. These were mentioned right after I told him there was nothing else the doctors could do to fight this disease: "It's ok. Remember what I shared with you the day I was first told that I had a very bad cancer, 'God is in control. Trust in Him.'" Amazing, even as my father's body was hanging on for dear life, his last words expressed that same sentiment - that everything would be ok. A few hours later, he went on to be with the Lord. What a message to remember.

As I thought about the lovely young lady I met earlier today, I wonder what she felt as we parted ways. I know I was touched by her life, even if our time was brief. As I meet individuals each day, I pray my life may offer some form of peace even when their life seems to be in disarray. Furth, I pray others may sense something far beyond me - the inviting presence of Jesus?