03 April, 2012

THE GREETER

Some years past I was residing in Southern California.
It was a mixed blessing of sorts though I never tired of the exploration. California is the biggest and wealthiest state in the union but there's no place to park and they can't pay their bills!

One day I visited the small town of Laguna Beach. I suppose it's best known for the beach culture but there is very much more. I was quite taken by the 'artsy' and energetic quality of this village.

The South Coast Highway brings visitors into the town proper. It's a nice ride along the Pacific Coast.

At some point, many years past, (Eiler Larson) a homeless, rather itinerant looking WWI veteran (not unlike Gandalf and Santa combined) came to town. A Danish stranger who stationed himself on one corner (Greeters Corner) and made it his business to wave his welcoming hand to every vehicle as it entered town.

It's likely that residents were at first wary of this odd looking gent. He was scruffy. Unwashed. Poorly clothed. Heavily bearded. An undesireable. Though in time the 'Greeter' (as he was known) became a local novelty and endeared himself to many.

Local eateries began to offer meals to the 'Greeter' at the close of business. The holidays brought cash and gifts from local residents as trepidation faded and fondness grew. The 'Greeter' had become something of a local and trusted institution applauded by all and who thrived on a torrent of goodwill from the community.

A final and dignified resolution, the 'Greeter' passed away at the age of 84 in 1975 having bellowed and waved his hellos for 35 years. The community grieved. Residents would eventually commission two huge statues to celebrate what the 'Greeter' called his 'mission of friendliness'.

Some years later a new 'Greeter' appeared. He was equally thread bare and equally unknown. He was equally homeless and itinerant. And he was ultimately rejected.

The towns folk labeled him the 'false' Greeter. He was basically shunned. He was reviled even though performing the same well intentioned task. I've always wondered why?
The official Greeter's appeal to the community was clearly greater than that of some disheveled vagabond. Was it merely the cult of personality? Was the greeter adopted by the community because of his uniqueness alone? Was it merely a case of being in the right place at the right time? Is the original 'Greeter' irreplaceable? Was the 'false' greeter merely a pretender? Is the community now to carry on with no iconic 'Greeter'?

It would seem that the fullness of welcome has been lost.

And why is that?

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