Welcoming is a Gift

By Robin Bush, ISR Communications

We say “welcome” in many different circumstances with one unifying meaning:  that we receive gladly the presence or companionship of another. It’s as old as the 5th century when it was used in Old English to greet a desired guest. Shakespeare used “You’re welcome” in Othello in 1603. We use it today to warmly usher someone in: “You are welcome here” or “Welcome to our home.” We use it when someone returns, as in “Welcome back.”  We welcome the New Year as an expression of gratitude for new beginnings and of life renewed. We also say “You are welcome” after someone expresses gratitude and says thank you. The next time you say it, remember it is more than a polite response to a “thank you.”  You are saying the other person’s gratitude is happily received, they are welcome to your help, or they are welcome to ask you again. It’s a phrase of acceptance of another person; some even think of it as a verbal embrace. In all uses, “Welcome” represents a relationship, belonging, and connection that is not meant lightly. It acknowledges the gift of having someone’s presence and generosity in your life.

Extending a hand of welcome can also open the door to building understanding and acceptance across generations about what it means to age. In an experiment, young people were asked, “What age do you consider to be old?”  They answered, “40 or 50 years old.” Then, they were asked to show how they think “old people” walk or do different physical movements.   They acted feeble, sick, hunched, confused by technology, and physically weak. Then, each of those younger people was paired with an older person in their 50s, 60s, or 70s and each pair was  given two minutes to teach the person from the other generation some kind of movement (from martial arts to boxing to dance) that they are good at. After that, each young person was asked again, “What age do you consider to be old?”  They now said old ranged from 80-100. They even said now they don’t look at age.   One older participant said that if someone is growing and learning, then age doesn’t matter, and another one answered that when people start stopping, that’s when they start getting old. Young and old then embraced and said thank you. To see the video of this exchange, go to:  https://www.arp.org/disrupt-aging/stories/ideas/info-2016/what-is-old-video.html. They each learned to welcome and appreciate one another. How interesting it would be to run the same kind of event as a nationwide movement in schools,  churches, or social clubs.

Welcoming is a gift we give. Beyond saying the word itself, welcoming includes sharing laughter, a simple smile, or extra patience when someone doesn’t move as fast as we’d like them to or is confused by circumstances. We welcome others into our lives when we volunteer, support a friend, or donate to those who need assistance and the organizations that support them. In all its forms, the gift of welcoming makes us happy, healthier, and connects us to others. Perhaps more important is how the gift of welcoming inspires those who receive it to become givers. Who can you welcome today?