I am not a morning person. Let me take a moment and define what I mean by that. Being a successful introvert most of my life, it takes a great degree of awakeness for me to be ready to greet the world every morning. This level of awakeness usually occurs around lunch. If I appear happy and friendly before lunch, please understand, this is only a ruse that I have perfected after years of having to pretend to be cheerful way too early in the morning.
Not long ago, I started parking in a different parking lot at work. This change in my routine made it possible for me to arrive at work a little later without losing my parking spot, as opposed to parking in the lot where all 5,000 occupants of building 300 were competing for a spot between 7:00 and 7:30.
Leaving a little later from the house (which makes for a happier non-morning person), I noticed a gentleman along my route. He stood in his driveway midway between the “Used Tires Hot Dogs and Sausages” gas station and the “Very Cold Beer” gas station. The reason I noticed him was because he was waving.
I figured that he must be waving at someone across the street and continued on my way. Until the next day when he waved again. Then I realized, he was waving at me and all the other drivers passing by. I just accepted the phenomenon of a friendly morning person along my way and basically didn’t let it bother me. But I didn’t wave back…
…Until one morning when I passed by, and without any thought, my arm went up to return his greeting. He stopped, apparently startled, and I could see him break into a grin before he turned to the next car.
I don’t know this gentleman’s story- I don’t know why he stands in his driveway and waves at the passing cars. But what I do know about him is that he is doing something that most of us hardly ever try to do anymore. He is trying to make a true human connection with the people whose paths cross his.
I just wonder- can the turmoil in our nation, which is getting more and more intolerant and violent, be turned around with more friendly waves? Can we simply stop caring what kind of people our neighbors are, and just see them as flesh-and-blood humans, just like we are, and treat them kindly just because of that?
The gentleman who waves at us passers-by every morning doesn’t know if we are Protestant, Catholic, or Muslim; if we are black, white, Asian, Hispanic; if we are Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, kind or mean-hearted, criminals or law-abiding citizens. He waves at us all, indiscriminately, unconditionally. And the result is this: we feel noticed. We feel that someone sees us and wants to connect with the humanness in us and the size of the connection doesn’t matter, but the reality of it does. For those of us who wave back, well that turns a connection into a relationship.
It seems that many have settled for impersonal (that is, comfortable) ways to show kindness for others. Paying for a meal for the person behind you in line is a good thing. But you can do that without every making a connection with that person. Donating to an online fund raising account is also a good thing, but without that personal one-on-one, flesh-and-blood connection, how do they know that you are really hurting with them or just giving out of a sense of duty? Limiting ourselves to such demonstrations, in my opinion, misses the point.
Kindness can be demonstrated in big ways or small ways, but really, the small ways are usually the ones that make the biggest impact. The small ways open doors that allow us to connect with each other in person. The small ways are doable for everyone and are mostly free. The small ways create unity in a thousand tiny threads woven together into one beautiful thing.