NonCommital Greetings from an "Oh so Intentional" Subculture

Photo by Michael Fuller.

Photo by Michael Fuller.

If you are new to the Bagpipe or to Covenant, I give you full and honest permission to write me off as just someone who is way too cynical. And really, you can, because I can find a problem with lots of things that are known to be culturally acceptable. This could very well just be a pet peeve of mine, but the way we greet each other in public today is sloppy and noncommittal.  

Within our part of the sphere of Christian culture, we talk a lot about who we are and how we should live amongst one another. We build strong communities in our halls, classes, buildings, and Great Hall tables. But the way we pass each other around campus feels contradictory to that. We are all too aware of the ever-present buzzwords “community” and “being intentional,” but if we are going to do it, let’s do it right.

We have all experienced the noncommittal blurt of “hey, how are you” several times in our day, and have probably given it twofold. I’m picky, and most people probably are content with this kind of greeting from their friends and acquaintances, but I suggest we take a closer look at it. Because of how much we talk about being “intentional” at Covenant, it is interesting how unproductive our greetings are. When we pass one another and ask how someone “is,” what are we really asking them? Do we really want to know how they are, or do we just want to say hello? Yes, I understand that it is just a cultural norm to have that tag at the end of a greeting; however, it makes it seem as if we don’t really care how that person is doing when we start to walk away after you ask them how their day is. Just a thought. And, If I were to ask around, I would hope that not many people would say that they did not actually care how their neighbor is doing.

This casual greeting is actually fine, but can get old after a while. I didn’t notice it until I actually started not being “fine” or “good” or “rested but stressed.” I walk past people and they just say “hey how are you” without actually hearing past “good, how are you?” I don’t want to read into everyone’s intentions because maybe people on this campus are just dandy and curious. But I would have to imagine that with people this close to one another, we should be able to get past this sentiment. If you are not comfortable enough with someone to not just lie and say “good” every time you pass them, could that possibly be solved by breaking the ice just one time?

Now, don’t stop saying it. It’s great, really; better than just “sup man,” a nod, or ignoring each other. But if we are going to ask how someone “is,” let’s actually stop and listen. One thing my roommate challenged me with earlier this year was to get to know people past their comfort zone. One way of doing that could be to not just casually ask people how they are, but to ask more specific questions about themselves. This prevents lazy friendships and makes you remember identifying facts that are relevant to them specifically.

So be intentional, or don’t. But remember what asking someone how they are actually means, and, if you do it, do it to know them better, not just to say hello. Cut the sloppy, unmeaningful gestures, and embrace your last few years at this crazy cool mountain home.