Grady smiled and laughed a lot, and had a way of making other people smile and laugh. So when he decided to find a job to fill some of his retired life, the department store in the strip mall hired him almost instantly. Grady’s job was to be a greeter, which meant, as he said--with a smile, of course--that his job was to stand at the entrance to the store, and say “Hi, how are you doing?”
Of course, Grady knew that the original reason that Wal Mart owner Sam Walton created greeters had little to do with making customers feel welcome. It was, instead, a way of informing customers that if they were thinking of shoplifting, someone was watching them. At the same time, though, it did prove to have the residual effect of making customers feel welcome, and Grady focused on this result of his presence at the front of the store.
He began to focus on the way he and the other greeters said those five words, so that he could hear the difference between an insincere “Hi, how are you doing?” and one that told the listener that yes, the greeter really did want to know how the other person was doing. Then he focused on body language, and developed the ability to determine who was doing well, and who was doing not so well.
He did this day after day, getting better and better at it.
One day, a young man walked into the store with a gait and facial expression that Grady immediately recognized as that of someone who had decided to make this day their last day on earth. Grady faced him, and, with just the right tone, just the right facial expression, and just the right posture, said “Hi. How are you doing?”
The young man froze, looked into Grady’s eyes, and then, after several seconds, started to cry.
“You’re just saying that to discourage me from shoplifting,” he said.
Grady put his arms around him.
“There, there” he said, walking him out of the store, where he never worked again.
They went to a park, where the man felt his pain run out of him with each understanding nod that Grady gave him, and felt himself heal each time Grady nodded and said “oh...that must have been so difficult.”
The young man came back to the park the next day with some friends, and Grady said hi to them, and asked them how they were doing. He listened to them, and healed them. Once healed, they wanted nothing more than to see others doing as well as they were, so they sat there, waiting.
And even today at this park, people occasionally take time from their lives to wait for someone to come to the park who is troubled and wounded, and just wants, above all, for someone to say hi, and to ask them, in a voice of genuine concern, how they are doing.