Just say ‘hi’

From Our Leaders

October 9, 2019 | Opinion | Volume 23 Issue 18
Brian Bauman |
'Take courage, make eye contact, smile and be the first to give this simple greeting and then go on with your daily routine.' (Image by rawpixel/Pixabay)

We live in a fearful world. People persecute, slander, ignore, bully and oppress other people.

It can be depressing catching the news of yet another hate crime, whether it’s on the other side of the globe, the other side of the border or the other side of town. It’s difficult to know how to respond in the face of growing white nationalism, institutional racism or those among us who are wary of welcoming more immigrants to the neighbourhood.

Of course, there is no magic wand to make it all go away. There is no simple fix to fear and prejudice.

As a well-educated, middle class, Eurocentric male, I have a lot of power and privilege. As a white guy in North America, I’m part of the dominant culture. I’m not always as aware of this fact as I’d like to be as I go through my day, but I do endeavour to keep it on my radar screen.

Since I have power and privilege, how does God want me to use it? The Swiss Mennonite in me wants to deny that I have any power, because weakness and humility should be my thing. But it’s been more than 200 years since my family experienced any persecution or were disadvantaged, so I really have to admit that I’ve garnered some power and privilege along the way.

What I’ve observed over the past 31 years of living and working in North American multicultural settings might provide a tiny step forward towards some societal healing. It’s not much, but it is something the majority of us can do each and every day. Just say hi.

You, the reader, can do this. The next time you are out in public, and the doctor, dentist, receptionist, store clerk, mechanic, bus driver, police officer, nurse, teacher, neighbour, beggar or paper boy/girl is of a different culture, ethnicity or race than you, say “hi.” Take courage, make eye contact, smile and be the first to give this simple greeting and then go on with your daily routine.

Whether you are shy or outgoing, this isn’t a big deal for any of us, but this tiny act of rebellion in the face of fear and prejudice does manage to say that we are one humanity. I see you. For a moment, I will lay my busyness and world worries down, and I will give you recognition. We are in this together.

In today’s world—which is your world, our world—initiating this one act of rebellion with a stranger is truly being a little more Christ-like. It’s a radical act of restoration that God smiles upon. So, “hi.” 

Brian Bauman, MC Eastern Canada’s mission minister, retires at the end of 2019. His care over the last 16 years positions the regional church well to continue to form a vibrant, intercultural and multilingual community of congregations.

Read more From Our Leaders columns:
Where heaven and earth meet
A collaborative leadership approach
Valaqua: A place where people express God's love
The most important word
Things I noticed at Gathering 2019

'Take courage, make eye contact, smile and be the first to give this simple greeting and then go on with your daily routine.' (Image by rawpixel/Pixabay)

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