A View From The Mesa: Greetings acknowledge our existence

On a recent morning, as I walked my dog, I greeted neighbors on their way to work.

I heard Gaby yell across the street, waving vigorously, "Good morning, Florinda," as her neighbor passed by.

I asked one of the kids at the bus stop about Whittier Elementary School's upcoming jog-a-thon. The kids greeted the dog, and we all went on with our days.

I have learned that greetings are a big deal in Latino culture.

When we have neighborhood meetings, there is no way to sneak in late. Everyone stops to greet when someone arrives, and at parties each person goes around kissing cheeks to say hello.

There is something I like about this recognition, about not being able to fly under the radar. When you greet, especially by name, your presence and person are acknowledged.

As we walked down the street that morning, greeting one another by name, it felt comfortable and safe.

Many of my neighbors work in service jobs where they try to go unnoticed.

As they clean hotel rooms, serve food and fix up yards, part of the job is doing the work without interrupting the other things around them. Part of the success is to get in and do the work without disrupting, sometimes without being seen or known. It's not rare for my neighbors to clean homes and yards for people they have never met or rarely see.

But at home it is not that way. In our neighborhood, we work to know one another.

Perhaps our morning greetings and evening parking dramas serve as a rhythm of sending out and welcoming back. As neighbors leave for work, we send each other out with a greeting, an acknowledgment with the new day that we are known and no matter how invisible we must make ourselves that day, we will be welcomed home by name in the evening.

When we greet each other, we see each other. We recognize our relationships as neighbors.

That may sound so basic and simple, yet as I think about our Facebook updates and check-ins and tweets, I see us as people desiring to be recognized, wanting our presence to be acknowledged.

It used to be that everyone wanted to have their 15 minutes of fame. Now we want our 500 Facebook friends to know we are at Target. I wonder if this deep need we have for connection and acknowledgment is somehow fulfilled when we simply greet one another by name.

"Good morning, Florinda."

I see you. I acknowledge you as my neighbor. I send you out into this world not as an invisible worker bee but as one rooted in this community, mother of Paco and Kevin, friend of Marina, valued community member.

Our names are typically the first thing we give and receive in a relationship. There is a mutuality established in each sharing our names. It is something we all have to offer. And in receiving the gift of someone's name we have the opportunity to honor them by greeting and acknowledging.

Maybe that is what we are all looking for anyway.

CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.

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