I do not like goodbyes. They are particularly difficult for me. More than the actual moment of parting is the dreaded feeling of loss that is only made worse by anticipated grief. In contrast, I rather look forward to meeting new people. An initial meeting does not make me uneasy. I can make a good first impression. I can be cordial, friendly, even mildly talkative. Meeting someone for the first time feels like a fresh start. It is the lingering…the possibility of friendship…the longing for relationship that works its way into my consciousness and starts a spiraling decent into doubt. My mind constructs a myriad of negative outcomes, “When they really get to know you….” It is the hope that there can be more than a mere meeting that steals my words and cancels logic—paralyzes the probability of extended intelligible conversation.

I wonder when it became so difficult to trust that people would remain.

I was a teenager in 1967 when the Beatles album “Magical Mystery Tour” debuted. One of the songs on the album is “Hello, Goodbye.” The chorus of the song has these words:

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

During my teen years (13-16) I experienced some significant hellos and goodbyes. My father left our family. My mother soon acquired a new boyfriend who later became my step-father. He was a loud, mean alcoholic. In the same span of years, it was my responsibility to care for my two younger brothers who share a physical disability, retinitis pigmentosa, which renders its recipients legally blind. I was responsible for helping my 4 and 8 year younger brothers with their homework, stayed home with them when they were sick, cooked dinner, and kept the house clean. In short, I was expected to fill the roles my mother could no longer fill because she had to work full time. After two years of caring for my brothers’ needs they were sent to live at a state run school for the blind. I didn’t see them again for two years. Indeed, there were a lot of difficult hellos and goodbyes during those teenage years.

Isolated from friends and family, hungry for companionship and relationship, I developed a significant relationship with the Beatles. They quickly became part of the fantasy world into which I retreated when mine was grossly unmanageable—which was most of the time. I had a large poster of George Harrison pinned to my closet door where I could look at him and talk to him as I drifted off to sleep. His kind and quiet eyes seemed to listen to every word I had to say. But life is not a fantasy and an imagined relationship with a rock star does not fill the longing to be loved and belong. Those God-given longings require relationship with real people—people who disappoint and require forgiveness—people who sometimes fail or leave (but not always)—who require patience and understanding and acceptance and perseverance and grace. Real people just like you. Just like me.

As I walk into this New Year and the possibility of many new hellos, I can also acknowledge that the year carries with it the very real possibility of some difficult goodbyes. How will I face them? Will I be tempted to retreat into the contemporary fantasy world of social media—video gaming—mindless television? Or will I choose to let go of my death grip on fleeing and step across the chasm of relationship with my presence to offer curiosity about the story of another?

There is so much life in front of me—in front of us.

Let’s agree with this New Year’s beginning that there is great value in having eyes to “see” the other, to ask good questions, be curious, and risk our hearts on true relationship.

Let’s agree to say a lot of intentional hellos this year. Let’s agree to live.


1 (1)Christine Browning is a lover of story—including her own. She loves to hear and longs to respond well to others’ stories. A late bloomer in the field of education, it is her absolute delight to teach at Milligan College in East Tennessee. She also counsels women who have experienced trauma and abuse. Christine is the mother of three adult children, three incredible grandchildren and has been married for 42+ years to her delightfully playful husband, Tom.
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