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The Power of “Hello”

Parent and Jenison Christian School (Jenison, MI) administrator, Tim Paauw, reflects on the power of “hello” in today’s post.

Hello speech bubbleAs a dad of two non-verbal boys with autism spectrum disorder, I have become accustomed to the feeling of "everyone is staring at us" in public settings. Each time my child flaps his arms, babbles as an eight-year-old, or touches someone's hair out of curiosity, it can create quite an interesting scene where judgment is often cast quickly.

When I was young, my parents and teachers taught me "not to stare" when someone looked different than me in any manner. The intention of this was pure - don't offend that person.

What I have learned through my boys is that our family doesn’t mind the staring. Staring is NOT often interpreted as offensive on our end, but rather as someone curiously figuring out our sons’ differences and noticing their presence, which makes them feel less invisible to others.
I read an article recently that emphasized that our culture needs to be teaching, "Say hello!" instead of, “Don’t stare.”

I was in two different settings this week with two different Jenison Christian School families where I was reminded of this welcome. They have had similar past experiences to my family. Both families mentioned to me that they were excited to be at Jenison Christian because so far it seems like a special community where they feel welcomed and where people include them and value rather than minimize their differences.
I am so thankful they felt welcome; I believe this is one of the defining values of what a truly Christ-centered community looks like.

If we believe God is creative and makes everyone unique, let's embrace that with "hello"—a greeting which allows for comfort and friendships to grow.

Tim Paauw is an administrator at Jenison Christian School. You can follow their family's blog at Beautifully Puzzled.

Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash