The Way We Get By is a documentary that starts out focusing on the work of the “troop greeters” in Bangor, Maine. This group of senior citizens goes to the Bangor International Airport at any hour of the day or night to greet outgoing and incoming US troops. Oddly enough, Bangor is the main departure and return point for those serving overseas . The greeters, some retired military themselves, offer service men and women a warm welcome, snacks and free cell phones to call their loved ones. Those arriving at 3 am receive the same enthusiastic greeting as those coming at 11 am, rain, sleet or snow. This seemingly small gesture has a big impact on those returning from overseas, many unsure of how they would be received or concerned about returning to life in the US.
But there’s another layer to the story, one that’s possibly even more touching- that of the lives of the greeters themselves. Focusing on three of the senior citizens the film becomes a study of aging, loneliness, and the universal search for a sense of purpose in our lives.