thirty years ago in papua new guinea, i grew up in a village of customs and culture. on clay paths, with the smooth of wet between toes, jumping over grass and water filled ditches, arms outstretched in unsteady crossing of one log lain down bridges—-i knew the dance steps required of greeting. there was a perfectly orchestrated moment to meet the eyes of a stranger. fifteen some steps from each other, eyes looking up to meet for a dueted nod, a tok ples greeting then back to path. to our own paths.
as we got older, each car met on pot-holed, dying pavement or dust-flinging gravel roads, was met with fingers lifted from steering and through dry or rain wet windscreens—-another quick nod.
it was a gift. this standard of greeting that gave us a place to stand. when my big and big-hearted brother and i returned to our passport home, it took nearly a year to stop waving at oncoming cars. we laughed at ourselves but i know our hearts missed connection missed.
but i have not been able to give up the greeting in me ready for crossed paths. i still walk with heart expecting to raise eyes for returned. i make my best guess at distance and then smile with hope briefly swelling. too often the pinprick of nothing deflates me.
today, stepping out into christmas’s eve, i was met with hurried tension. i took a gulp of it myself and kept eyes lowered until i was interrupted by elderly grace and sweet patience. i knew at first words she was going to comment on each purchase, reaching out the way i sometimes avoid with driving through. and in that moment i chose to spit out the hurry i chewed on and return her heart with heart.
at the end of peaceful by choosing exchange, i left with my heart warmed and hope refilled when my bilum hat led to her knowing another from png led to speaking of god’s word led to connection not missed.
i left the store with eyes ready to lift, counting my steps and counting on the worth in greetings.
tomorrow i will choose to greet eager children with shared joy. at some moment in the day we call christmas, i will lift my eyes to greet my savior.
and some times…. on emptier roads where life is slower in the passing, my fingers will lift from the steering wheel and i will set greeting free to lift up.
after listening to the king, they went on their way. and behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. and going into the house they saw the child with mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
matthew 2:9-11 (ESV) ____________________________________________________________________________________________________