Saying Hello

holding hands

As we continue to greet the new year, Becky Allender is reflecting on a “Hello” moment that changed her life. Becky and Dan are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this month, and here she writes about the circuitous path that drew them together and how they continue greeting each other in a way that points to the coming kingdom of God. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living. You can also hear Becky on this weekend’s episode of the Allender Center Podcast, and tune in next week as she and Dan reflect on their relationship and the past 40 years together.

I may be wrong, but I have only said “Hello” to my husband one time, and it changed both of our lives. I may have only said the word once, but I have been welcoming him since high school. Hello is what I say on the telephone when I identify myself as Rebecca. Hello is what I say when I walk into a shop and let someone know that I am there. But, ever since caller ID, hello is something I never say to someone I love.

I grew to love the Marx Brothers and Frank Zappa in high school because of Dick Mackey. And then my future husband, Dan, entered into my view before English class my senior year. He was the nearest person to Groucho Marx around! He says that it was in our sophomore year in French class that he noticed my legs and used to drop his pencil many times each class to look at them. I was only aware of his teacher’s pet status and had no affection for him. But somehow, in between English and American Government our senior year he made his way into my life.

We were probably shy and for whatever reason, it became hilarious to greet one another in a Brooklyn accent while asking, “Do you have a “quaaater” to spare?” He was a football player and I was in choir.  He was dating someone and I was dating someone and so that Brooklyn accent about needing quarters was as far as our relationship went.

We went to different colleges in Ohio and occasionally wrote to one another. We would see one another at college rock concerts: Muddy Waters at the Agora, Frank Zappa at Ohio Wesleyan, and the Doors at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus. We usually would just wave. Dan even stopped by my parents’ home a few times during college, but only once was I home. That was it—at least, that’s what I thought.

A couple of years after college graduation, Dan went to a large record store on Ohio State’s campus. Dick Mackey noticed him across 15 aisles of records and hollered, “Guess what, Allender? Becky Gilbert is like YOU! She became a Christian!” Stunned, Dan gave Dick a wave and went home wondering.

That same afternoon my friend Jane called to see if I wanted to go to Jeff Stark’s house and watch Sherlock Holmes movies on PBS. I had never talked to Jeff in my life, but I said yes because I knew that he was a student at Westminster Seminary. A few hours later Jane called to say she was not going to go. I went anyway and had a great time.

Unbeknownst to me, Jeff had asked Dan to come that night as well. Jeff said he would call when the two girls arrived. Dan knew I was coming and was over the moon with the thought of seeing me. When only one girl came, Jeff “forgot” to call.

The following day, I got a strange phone call. I answered and said, “Hello.” This person did not say hello back and would not say who he was. I was irritated and almost hung up when he said, “This is a voice from your past.” I asked, having no idea who it was, “Please tell me your initials.” He said, “D.A.” I immediately knew and said, “Dan Allender, what are you calling me for?”

He said, “I’d like to see you tonight?” I replied, “I am sorry, but I am going to Jeff Stark’s house.” He replied, “Well, just stop by my parents’ home before you go to Jeff’s.”

So that’s what I did. I stopped by his home and after what seemed to be a nice, short visit, I told him I was going to go to Jeff’s. He quickly asked if I wanted to meet his mother. (Not really, but it seemed impolite to say that.) We walked into his home and there was Mrs. Allender with white bouffant hair that was similar to Marge Simpson’s blue hair. She had the skinniest legs I’d ever seen and weighed about 90 pounds. We were introduced, and as I tried to exit to the door Dan said, “Would you like to see the tricks we do together?” Remember, I like Groucho and Frank Z., and thought, what the hell? “Okay,” I said and followed them into the dining room.

Mrs. Allender turned herself into a rigid baton, and Dan proceeded to throw her to the ceiling! He then twirled around and caught her behind his back and then lifted his leg like a can-can dancer and swooped her underneath his leg and tossed her one last time before setting her down on the blue carpet. I was wide-eyed with incredulity and hilarity. It took decades to realize he was stalling to keep me fascinated with his antics and distracted from my plan to see Jeff.

We went for a brief walk that turned into hours, and I never made it to Jeff’s that night! The following day I cooked Chinese food complete with my first try at egg rolls and invited him to a picnic by the Scioto River.

We hugged and said goodbye. Dan drove back to seminary, and I went backpacking in Europe with Jane and Roberta. For the next four months, from Wales to Switzerland to Austria to Turkey, Dan had letters waiting for me at every American Express office we went to!

Each letter started with a warmth and playfulness that I could not ignore. The man won my heart from the first hello and with each and every greeting since. How we greet each other in the morning sets in motion what kind of day it will be. Dan has said countless times that my voice brings him a light and life in the early dark hours of the morning that is like a beacon.

How we greet each other at the beginning of a day is a foretaste of the welcome we will one day receive when we stand before Jesus.

Each day every one of us gets to practice saying what we want one day to hear. Dan and I are days away from our 40th anniversary. On our anniversary morning, I plan to wake my husband up and say, “Hello, welcome to my bed. My name is Becky and what is yours? Tell me how you’ve come to share this life with me?”