I am so glad you're reading me today

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Let's think about what we might say when we part from or meet someone.

In December for the first century or so of Canada's being, people said, "Have a merry Christmas!" perhaps

influenced by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge still floods the earth from satellites on Christmas Eve.

Dickens reminds us early in the story of the reality that Christmas is not a joyful time for everyone, but the welcome change in the old curmudgeon blots this truth from our mind.

Multiculturalism in Canada has dampened our enthusiasm for saying Merry Christmas, but wishing people a happy holiday is no more universally appropriate.

In my present phase of life, when I meet someone who obviously knows who I am, either from using my name or by facial expression, if I can't call up the name I ask. I used to bluff in hopes of getting a clue. Been caught out too many times for that gambit.

I'm fortunate to be spared looks of aversion most of the time. Not everyone considers me a good fellow, and with good reason. I have a bit of the Irish in me. I suppose there are those who will consider that a politically incorrect statement.

So what do we use for a greeting that won't grate? If the sun is shining that's usually a safe opener. Chances of your interlocutor being afflicted with lupus are remote.

If it's raining, a jokey "Wet enough for you?" gets the ball rolling. Works with most any weather condition.

We can skip directly to the time of parting since who knows where the conversation will go. Too many possibilities to offer a plan.

"Have a merry Christmas" may be OK if the conversation has led in that direction.

It's in the realm of friendship to close with, "It's been good talking with you!" or "Good to see you!"

In our family we often close with, "Give everyone a hug from us!"

This can get us into trouble if it refers to other than family members. If the conversant is of the school that considers any physical contact an act of assault, be prepared for a reprimand. How many lives might be saved by a caring embrace when a stranger has lost a job, a home, a loved one and is in deep depression? "Have a happy holiday" doesn't cut it for me, but you may feel it serves. Just remember in these secular times a lot of people have to work, if they are lucky enough to have a job. For the unemployed this is a slap in the kisser.

On Fridays we usually get a cheerful "Have a nice weekend!" from cashiers.

My response is often, "Every day is a weekend for me." This is a sort of joke because I'm retired. My weekends are nice usually when they include family and friends who are still in the workforce.

It pleases me when a teller asks, "Anything else I can do for you today?" This is within human possibility. No one can influence one's fortune simply by wishing.

A cashier can say, "Thank you for shopping in our store." That may be out of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Norman Vincent Peale, or it may be heartfelt. I assume the latter.

A wise teacher pointed out the unwritten part of Peale's title: to make a buck off them.

All right, class. Let's go out there and make the world a friendlier place.




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