While Douglas played disc golf, I went for a ninety-minutes hike in one of the parks near us. There weren’t many people on the trails that day, but when I did pass someone, it meant so much to me that a man or a woman would smile and wave at me. I would return the gestures.
To me, those moments when someone sees your humanity and is willing to acknowledge you as someone worthy of their time and energy are so precious today when there are deep divisions in our society. We can disagree with each other but still remain decent and kind.
I smile because I am just grateful to see another person who is made in the image of God. I wave enthusiastically to show that we are alike in our desire for good health. There is enough hate in the world, and I don’t want to add to it by not acknowledging another human being as valuable and of great worth.
Yes, sometimes people look at me as if I have lost my mind, but rather than sulk and pout and think evil thoughts, I just say to myself, “It’s not the end of the world!” People may have genuine and authentic reasons not to greet others. Some may be suspicious of people’s niceness, because they have been mistreated or scammed by someone. But also, I have visited some places in America where no one seemed to speak to strangers.
I don’t speak the words anymore because of coronavirus, as I keep my distance. But, I am a Southerner, and I was taught to wave and say hello and How y’all doing to everyone, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, or social class. I remember that when I was a child, to not speak was seen as an offense as grave as stealing, it seemed. People would let you know they were not pleased and that you were not all that and a bag of chips!
This was especially true of the older women in the neighborhood, who knew everybody’s parents and grandparents, and they would ask, “Ain’t you Eloise’s girl?” That meant that your mother knew of your transgression before you got home, and what followed wasn’t pretty for embarrassing her and your family.
At age 70, I shouldn’t worry about people not speaking to me, but I don’t think you ever outgrow that desire to be recognized as a human being. So, when people honor me by waving and smiling and greeting me with a Good morning, those moments still mean the world to me. It fills my soul with joy, and I feel hopeful for the world; at least, in those few moments.