Hello out there, hello

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Here it is mid December. We have donned our &uot;goodwill to all&uot; attitudes and are spreading peace and joy to anyone who cannot outrun us. Greetings of cheer are being shoved into mailboxes all over the country.

We are planning and shopping for wonderful holiday gatherings resplendent with merriment and warm fellowship, and we are squeezing all the gaiety we can muster into every moment [even if it exhausts us!!]. Church choirs are busily rehearsing cantatas, and high school bands have already marched down main streets everywhere ushering in the season. During the holidays, we tend to think more of the unfortunate and those in ill health; children are being herded into minivans for the annual trek to hospitals and nursing homes for carol singing.

It's another melodic American Christmas.

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This time of year we hear all the old standards wafting through the streets, the shopping malls and in every aisle of Wal-Mart Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Momma Got Run Over By A Reindeerhow could we ask for more!!!

It is truly a magical, musical time of year. But perhaps there are other songs we should sing. One that I would like to include is by John Prine, a rough-hewn singer of story poems. &uot;Hello In There&uot; recounts the daily life of an elderly couple that finds it difficult to cope with the loneliness of advancing age. Their children are scattered about the country, friends are dying, and their lives are spent merely waiting for the inevitable. The refrain, &uot;You know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day. Old people just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say hello in there, hello.&uot; should be all we need to hear to jump-start us into action to ease that loneliness. It's the time of year for such missions.

Our population in the United States is getting older every day. We live longer than ever before and the average lifespan is increasing. Yet we also are a more mobile society than ever which means there are fewer and fewer multi-generational family units within a community. That breeds loneliness in all age groups. But for the elderly, the problem is compounded by the difficulties of old age. Trips to visit family are not easy because both good vision and stamina are in short supply. Traveling for the elderly takes its toll more quickly more than in the years. And then there is the problem of fitting into the busy lives of children and grandchildren. Sometimes, Grandma and Grandpa are a lot of trouble. They move slowly, talk too much, and have such odd opinions that they are all too willing to share. And it seems impossible that someday each of us will be just like them!

So what do we do about this problem? Maybe the best solutions are the easiest ones. A &uot;hello&uot; is easy. Maybe we could start there. Try it by telephone, at the post office, grocery store, gas station, even at church. It could make a difference. That &uot;hello&uot; could let someone know they are noticed, that they matter. We do not have to be acquainted when we speak. Strangers may need the acknowledgement more than those familiar people we see frequently. In my new addition to the list of good holiday songs, the words go on to say, &uot;when you spot some hollow, ancient eyes, don't just stare as if you didn't caresay hello in there, hello.&uot; Let's give it a try. Perhaps we'll have a new Christmas song, and who knows, it may just become a year-round favorite. The effort required is minimal. The outcome cannot be negative. And we could possibly start a trend that will come back to reward us all in our later years. The day may come when each of us needs a &uot;hello in there, hello.&uot;