Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wear Flowers in Your Hair

Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.

Long before today’s stringent airport security, I carried a bouquet of flowers from my garden in Atlanta to my mother in Los Angeles. As I walked through airports, sat on planes, and waited in line for a car rental, I was surprised by the reactions that carrying a small vase of obviously homegrown flowers elicited: Appreciative smiles. Kindly looks and gestures. A twinkle in some eyes. Friendly conversations. And I thought this just might be a good way to go through life.

A song from “my time” once advised that, if going to San Francisco, one should “wear some flowers in your hair.” This may be good advice for any destination.

And it’s not bad counsel for greeting someone. Many of us have enjoyed getting lei’ed in Hawai’i, but I learned this was also the customary greeting as I traveled through India in 1982—and somehow there, less commercial, more genuine. India has also given us the greeting of bringing hands together and bowing slightly in the reverential gesture namaste, “I bow to you” in Sanskrit, what Joseph Campbell described as the most spiritual of languages. Throughout Asia the same gesture is called gassho.

Christians pass the peace of Christ in a hug, a handshake, or a kiss. A friend of mine who is a massage therapist secretly makes the sign of the cross over a client at the beginning of each session, signifying that body’s holiness.

In his milestone Varieties of Religious Experience, William James wrote of the importance of “over-beliefs”—beliefs that go beyond empirical evidence that help create their own reality. Writing about this in one of my books, I gave the illustration of getting on an elevator. If you enter believing everyone in the car is going to be friendly, you are more likely to elicit a friendly response.

Bearing flowers or offering flowers, greeting others with namaste or peace or the sign of the cross—if only in my heart—makes me far more likely, not only to experience others as beloved children of God, but to be treated as a beloved child.

Like Will Rogers, my parents never met a stranger they didn’t like. My sister and brother and I heard more life stories elicited by my parents’ Midwestern friendliness than could fill a book. Sales clerks. Servers. Repair persons. Mail carriers. You name it. Wish the whole world could be like them.

Coming up this Sunday:
Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 23. Chris will speak at the Rockville United Church, 355 Linthicum St. 20851 at the 9:30 am morning class on “Claim the God in You as a Progressive Christian” and his sermon title during the 10:45 worship will be “Jesus Was Not a Literalist.” Lunch follows with a question-and-answer period with Chris.