Who do you let in? Who do you seek out?

How often do you stop, cup your hands to your mouth and cry: Hello in There?

We all yearn to be known. We have this inborn appetite to be seen. We are also prompted to connect with others. The opposite, isolation, is both physically and mentally debilitating.

In the recent episode of Invisibilia embedded below, a young person, Abby Wendle, simultaneously navigates her long distance relationship with her boyfriend and the loneliness that accompanies this condition which leads to the tension between protecting herself and letting people in.  She discovers something else along the way, a connection with an unlikely friend who shares her love of John Prine’s music.

John Prine appears in the podcast as well and he talks about the origin of his song, Hello in There, how it relates to reaching out to older people who just want to be known and his inspiration for the song, calling into the echoing hollowed out trunks of his childhood forest- hello in there!

It so happens that this podcast entered my feed on the heels of a few stark reminders of exactly where I would be if I had not made a few key connections over the past few years.  Recently, there were a few unlikely friends I let in, that have added tremendous value, richness, depth, and love to my life that I never would have known had I remained in isolation from strangers as my deeply introverted, insecure personality had sequestered me to in the past.

Bonus Episode of Invisibilia : Who Do you Let In? 

If you are a reader of this blog, you know that the last couple of weeks have been very hard, as I lost one such friend, Tim Sader. author of Tuesday’s Torch. If you click back to the last couple of my posts, you can read all about Tim, his mom and his wife, all of who I am blessed to be friends with.  I attended church with these folks for a long time before I was brave enough (and it turns out lucky enough) to spend time and go deeper in my friendship with.

Similarly, my church, Ashley Ridge Church of Summerville, SC, decided some years ago to start a food truck ministry called, Expanding The Table.

When I heard Abby’s story and listened to the John Prine song, Hello in There, it evoked a flood of memories and present-day emotions that surrounded the relationships I built when I used to go out there with the truck on Saturday afternoons. One of these relationships persists today and more recently had me praying for my unlikely friend, Mother “B,” after some medical issues. Nowadays, Mother and I have a “text out of the blue” friendship. Several times a week, we reach out to each other with bits of encouragement or prayer.

If you watch the video below, it will show off Mother’s sparkling personality and zest for life (as well as her Boy Scout-like level of preparedness for summer critters and other unexpected circumstances.)  What is probably less obvious from the pictures and the video are all the laughs we had and the friendships we formed. One of the other ladies from the neighborhood, Ms. “H,” did not have all of Mother’s vitality.  She is pictured above, with a smile, but that is not how I first encountered her.  When we first started going out there, Ms. H was a little ‘standoffish.” Over time, and with enough of us asking, “Hello in there?” Ms. H began to let us in.  She still had many grumpy moments, but many times, toward the end of my time visiting the apartment complex, Ms. H would demand endless hugs before I could go home.  I’ll never forget the first time she said, “I love you.” It was a pretty amazing moment.

The interesting thing is I can recall as I drove home that night, how odd it seemed to me that I begrudgingly went to serve on Expanding the Table the first time.  In many ways, I was like an older version of our friend Abby above, scared of expanding my circle.  Scared of looking into the hollowed out log and asking if anyone was at home inside.

I recalled preparing my introverted brain to go out to the food truck the first time, I told myself how it was going to be tough, but I was doing what I was supposed to do- serve.  The idea I had was that I would go out to serve some food, and I may have to meet some folks who reminded me of the way I grew up. Boy! was I full of sanctimonious crap?!

What I learned from all of the friendships that have pushed me out of my comfort zone to date is that I was under the impression I was the one serving.  I was the one who mistakenly thought he was peering into the hollow log of someone’s life and asking Hello in there? and each time, I learned they were not only asking me the same question right back, but they were also unlocking and revealing things inside me I did not know were there. I also learned that the folks who connect, reveal and know us don’t always have to be sage women of deep faith, sometimes, as with The Sader’s they are younger than us.  Sometimes there are things that simply defy explanation found in making a connection with another person.

I was seeing them and they were seeing me.  They became known to me and I became known to them. When that happens, we discover our, what I believe is, our God-given imprint to be connected to one another.  We unlock what it means to be better together.

One last thing.  I was late getting my blog written today because I attended a men’s breakfast. The speaker had a strong message-it was about connecting to other men. It was about inviting people into our world to connect.  It was a reminder that young or old, man or woman, we all just want someone to shout into the log, looking for us.

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger

And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day

Old people just grow lonesome

Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”

So if you’re walking down the street sometime

And spot some hollow ancient eyes

Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare

As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”

Hello In There Video – John Prine

Hello in There
Full Lyrics
We had an apartment in the city
Me and Loretta liked living there
Well, it’d been years since the kids had grown
A life of their own left us alone
John and Linda live in Omaha
And Joe is somewhere on the road
We lost Davy in the Korean war
And I still don’t know what for, don’t matter anymore
Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”
Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more
She sits and stares through the back door screen
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream that we’ve both seen
Someday I’ll go and call up Rudy
We worked together at the factory
But what could I say if asks “What’s new?”
“Nothing, what’s with you? Nothing much to do”
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”
Songwriter: John Prine
Hello in There lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Published by J Johnson

I am seeking to discover, find and share salt and light into the world. After growing up in financial poverty, but with a wealth of loving people lifting me up all along the way, I struggled for a good while to "do it all on my own." Until I finally found something indescribable in a mere "about me" section of a blog. Now I have the peace that discovery provides as well as the overwhelming urge to share everything I can with as many as I can. I am now trying to use those life experiences, my formal and informal education, and my over 25 years of human resources and leadership experience to have a broader conversation with the world about that something, that Light, and about Love and Leadership...with a dose of Laughter along the way. 4 Ls to Live by and to Soar by: Four for Soaring.

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