The Magic of Saying Hello

As taught to us by Sloth and Manatee

Sloth and Manatee are friends. They are friends with each other, but also with everyone and everything else. All their friendships tend to start in a similar way, by saying hello.

Whenever Sloth and Manatee encounter someone new, they tend to say, “Oh, hello.” There’s this moment of noticing there’s a new fellow afoot. And this is what one does with a new fellow. One says hello. It means, I see you there, and I am paying attention to you. There you are.

Perhaps they are meeting a new life form, or a creature, or maybe a tree. Sloth and Manatee are in conversation, all the time, with everybody. There is no end to the conversations that you can have. The tree is in conversation with the sun. The ocean is in conversation with the shore.

Okay Sloth and Manatee do not always exactly say “hello,” since some meetings can be kind of unexpected and surprising.

And sometimes, someone says hello to us first, which can make us feel seen and acknowledged. In that case, we are saying hello back.

Saying hello starts a process of co-existing. Which we were doing already, except now we are acknowledging it out loud. We bring someone into our world. This is a big deal. Acknowledging one another and co-existing is how we develop a sense of safety and peace.

We don’t always necessarily know who we are saying hello to, and that is okay. Maybe someone needs to let us know their name, or exactly who they are. This is part of the process. If we get it wrong, we can just change it. If someone gets us wrong, we can correct that, too. But what we call each other is important because it signifies that we see them as they are, not as we are. This can be difficult.

Sometimes a greeting is the beginning of a deep and illuminating conversation, like when one runs into the Frog of Knowledge. We have come into someone’s place, and we are there to learn.

Sometimes a greeting is a way to start a conversation with someone who might be a bit reluctant, like a baby bird whose parent bird calls in a friend to help with a bit of encouragement. This type of hello is friendly and non-threatening, and meets the person/bird where they are. In this case, the nest.

But wherever we go, there is a greeting to be had, and someone to see and to acknowledge and to be seen by. Saying hello is a form of seeing. Saying hello makes a little opening for friendship and conversation to happen, and it might be big, or small, or confusing, or surprising, or nothing, or something important. For Sloth and Manatee, it all starts with a hello.

Sloth and Manatee are friends. They have two books so far! Learn more about them here.

Betsy Streeter (me) is (am?) an artist and cartoonist and writer. Learn more about me here.