On my weekly trip to the grocery store, I noticed a sign hanging above the rows of shopping carts that said “Welcome. We are glad you are shopping with us today.” It was a simple sentiment, but I thought for a moment that it wasn’t easy for the owners of the store to bring me a greeting before I even got inside. It took at least one person with a good ladder more than a few minutes to make sure this message was placed in just the right spot. Inside, as I stood near the avocados and tomatoes, a clerk came up behind me. “Excuse me ma’am. Let me wipe this up.” He bent to clean up a small mess I hadn’t noticed on the floor behind me. “Wouldn’t want you to slip. Evidently, someone tried to make guacamole, and forgot to take it with them.” This particular market is always clean and inviting, and it makes the desired impression. But, it does take work to keep it that way.
At home, we want to make our guests feel welcome. We try to provide a place for them to sit without having to move anything, and if they spend the night, there is a comfortable bed, and a convenient bathroom, stocked with the necessities. I have learned that providing for visitors varies by the age of the person I am trying to comfort. In this weather, having a fresh pitcher of iced tea usually does the trick for the adults. The youngest visitors may enjoy the well stocked toy box in our guest room, and my grand-children expect the freezer to be full of “poss-pickles.” This also means that there should be a few good places to sit on the front porch, which is a great spot to enjoy a frozen treat on a hot day.
Just inside my front door, my Mama’s cedar chest provides the perfect platform for a seasonal tableau. In the springtime, it holds an Easter basket with colored eggs, daffodils and bunnies. Summertime brings out the latest pictures taken of the grandchildren enjoying Granny camp. Of course, when Christmas is a-coming, my lighted Christmas village sparks nostalgic memories for all who enter. In fact, this same scene re-emerges for a week during my Christmas in July celebration. Okay, maybe that display in the entryway is more about me after all. Hopefully, though, others notice and appreciate it.
Outside, we want our houses to make a good first impression. The realtors call this “curb appeal” but there is not a lot of science to it. Our porches are relatively clean and well lit, the doorbell works, the yard is mowed before the wilderness reclaims the place. Healthy plants and flowers also promote a feeling of happiness and comfort for our friends and neighbors. In our region, the crepe myrtle tree is an easy solution, as they thrive here. With a little pruning during the winter, they provide a colorful display along our roads and in our flower beds. Best of all, the Arkansas summer doesn’t defeat them, the way it does the rest of us.
The new congregation we worship with has in the neighborhood of 500 in attendance each Sunday morning. Recently, a debate on their Facebook page underscored a quandary about making visitors welcome. Some expressed hesitancy to greet someone they didn’t recognize. “What if,” they said, “this person has been attending for years, and I just never noticed them before?” The consensus was to err on the side of being friendly. The proper greeting is, “I don’t believe I have met you. I’m ‘so and so’. What is your name?” Even with such a large group of people, this has worked well, as several people have spoken to us each time we joined them, and many have learned our names. We definitely feel welcomed.
When we do something nice for someone, and they say “Thank-you,” our response is usually, “You’re welcome.” In the Spanish language, the reply to “Gracias” is often “De Nada” which loosely means “it was nothing.” In this case, I think I like the English language tradition better. When we go out of our way to be nice, it isn’t “nothing.” It takes effort, as it should.
As the long hot summer nears an end, I hope you have been able to stay cool, and perhaps have enjoyed some of my reading suggestions. If my columns have cheered you at all, or made you feel good about your own efforts to make others happy, you’re welcome.