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Home > 2012 > April Web Exclusives > Saying "Hi" to Lilly

Earlier this week I joined a friend for lunch in a local restaurant. While we were eating, a small girl and her mother came through the front door and headed for the table closest to us. The child instantly caught my eye. She was beautiful, stunningly beautiful: a perfect face and a mass of golden curly hair that reminded me of the girl who sings "Tomorrow, Tomorrow," in the Broadway musical, Annie.

As the mother and daughter came nearer, I smiled at the child, wiggled my fingers in a miniature wave and said, "hi." I half-expected her to look away, perhaps move to her mother's other side so that she felt protected from a stranger.

But she didn't. Instead, she instantly smiled, waved, and said "hi" back to me.

I must tell you. The child was so charming that one might be excused if, for a moment, he seriously questioned the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity. At least in her case. And this said simply on the basis of a smile, a wave, and a "hi."

When my friend and I were finished eating, we stood and put on our coats. Seeing we were about to leave, the girl waved again to me and said, with the same radiant smile, "Bye!"

Once again I was romanced."Sweetheart," I said, "Thank you so much for giving me your wonderful smile."

"You're welcome," she said.

"What's your name," I asked, hoping her mother would not object to a strange man speaking to her daughter.

"I'm Lilly," she said looking me straight in the eye.

I thought it interesting that she did not turn to her mother to ask it was okay to talk with someone she didn't know. Apparently she'd simply made up her mind to treat me as a friend.

"How old are you, Lilly?" I asked. "Six, seven, ten … maybe?" I purposely misjudged her age just to see if she'd further respond.

"Nooooo," she laughed. "I'm not ten (the "ten" said emphatically as if she were reprimanding me.). "I'm free" (which, interpreted, meant three).

"Free!" I said. "I really missed it didn't I?"

"Yes, you missed it by a lot," she said.

"You have a magnificent daughter; you must be a great mom," I said turning to Lilly's mother who was obviously delighting in her child's capacity to handle herself so confidently.

"Thank you," she said.

"Bye, Lilly," I said with another wiggling of my fingers.

"Bye," Lilly said again. And my friend and I left the restaurant … reluctantly.

I'm sure you can tell that I had loved this exchange in the restaurant, that it had generated a sense of joy in me. A 73-year-old man and a "free"-year-old girl had connected for a moment. There'd been no discussion about world news, the latest problems at church, or the newest iPad. I have those conversations all the time. No, this was different: just a few seconds of spontaneous, innocent friendliness. The kind of thing you wished you could experience more.

There are those times—often brief and unexpected—when you get a hint of another world where there is unmitigated beauty, love, peace, and joy. My moment with Lilly was one of those times.

But soon, I fear, Lilly will not be so responsive to a stranger.

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Gordon MacDonald is chancellor of Denver Seminary and editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. He is author of numerous books, including Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence.

Related Topics:EmotionsFellowshipFriendshipGraceVulnerability
Posted: April 2, 2012

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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Mick Uffindell

April 19, 2012  3:37pm

It reminds me of the song Daisy by Karine Polwart. Sad and thought provoking.

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April 10, 2012  9:18pm

I am reminded of a vacation spent with a nephew. At the end of our stay, we were watching fireflies in a meadow. He was sad that we were leaving the next day, so I was distracting him by listing all of the fun things we had done that week and then asked him what had been his favorite. He leadned back in my lap and said quietly, "Right now." I've cherished that moment since then, but not until now did I realize that it's how my walk with God should be. Where I realize that the best of my life isn't the things I get or do, but it's the time spent experiencing all with Him. Then anytime is my best time.

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Bob Ewing

April 03, 2012  5:50pm

How sad, but true. My 22 month old grandson waves hello/hi to everyone he sees. How precious and innocent. But he too will learn that isn't always okay to do. Thanks be to Christ who brings some sunlight into our world through the Lillies and Carsons that are all around us. May the Lord protect their innocence for a time.

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Mary Binford

April 03, 2012  12:04pm

Hebrews 13:2 New International Version (NIV) 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

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