Another week has started and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring is still with us. I know for some that is a very unsettling feeling. I do know, as the governor says, “we are in this together.“
Driving in to school this morning to start my day, I found myself wondering about life and what normal had come to mean. It occurred to me how much I enjoyed living in a rural community as a child and as a young adult. I remembered visiting in rural Tennessee where my dad grew up and knowing there was a difference in that environment and that of a large city. As I was thinking about some of those differences, I remembered one special habit that I have gotten away from, waving. Well maybe it is not totally gone from my life (carpool), but I find I don’t use it as often as I would like. So this morning I began. I waved to everyone I saw in their yards this morning. I saw a lady standing on a corner with her dog, waiting for the light to change and I waved to her. I started waving to the cars I passed. Not a frantic wave, mind you, but one that simply said, “I see you and you matter.”
I remember when first moving to town and I would wave at someone I was passing, a passenger riding with me might ask, “Who was that?” They seemed surprised and would often chuckle when I would tell them I didn’t know. My children and sometimes students on field trips would be embarrassed when I would talk to someone in an elevator or to someone in line at a store. I know times have changed but at a time like this, perhaps they should change again.
In a time when the world moved at a slower pace, people walking by houses on their way to school, work, or shopping would exchange greetings. Even when riding a horse or in a wagon it was still normal to speak, nod, or wave at those you passed. It would, at that speed, seem rude not to acknowledge a fellow human. However, with the new speed, and privacy of more modern transportation we have learned not to do it and not to expect it. Now even if we are not in a car flying by someone or in a rush as we run into a store and out again, we have given the members of our society, ourselves included, permission to ignore and be ignored. Somehow this has become seen as acceptable. Might it be that when we lost the normalcy of showing respect to others it has becomes easier to disrespect them in both word and action?
In this time of “staying healthy at home” so many people are longing to have some interaction. In a world where it has become so normal to pass by people and not even make eye contact, nod our head, or even speak a word of kindness, we rush to pursue our own needs and wants, forgetting how uplifting it would be to send a purposeful message of value to everyone you see. Could it lighten a tough day? Could it give hope and encouragement to someone who might otherwise feel forgotten or used? And just think what it would do for you, to become so influential on a simple trip to the grocery store or moving about in our world of “social distancing.” There is never a time when we give to others that we ourselves are not blessed.
This may be small but maybe the small things matter most when the big things seem the most uncertain. Let’s start an AIE campaign. Let’s wave as we pass by others whether we know them or not. Let’s wish them a kind word of encouragement by saying “be safe “or “take care.” Let’s let people know we see them and that they matter. There’s no cost to us for this change in behavior and we will never know how valuable it was to the person who may remember our smile and friendly acknowledgement throughout their day.