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When I go on my morning walks, I’m often alone on the sidewalks. The early darkness might discourage people from stepping outside of their homes. Most walkers are people with pets who are probably desperate to find a swatch of grass, and their owners are obviously happy to oblige. Although I don’t see many people with dogs anymore, I always like to see Zoe, an English mastiff who is both gentle and stubborn. When she sees me coming, she stops and watches me approaching. Her owner makes her sit, which she does reluctantly. Lately, she’s more reserved toward me, so I make sure she sniffs my hand before I scratch her ears. That physical connection usually does the trick, and we are friends once again.
This morning provided a moment that has stuck with me through my day. Often when I am out, the maintenance fellows are mowing the grass on their overgrown tractors. They are so hypnotizingly focused as they whip around on the golf greens, that I sometimes can’t catch their attention. But now and then they see me smile and wave, and they respond in kind. I can’t tell if they are pleased to react, or if they do it reluctantly.
Today, though, the motives of the fellow I saw were clear. As I approached on the sidewalk opposite him (about 50 feet away), he smiled and waved before I could initiate my greeting. I grinned and waved back; I assume it was reminiscent of another cheerful morning when we connected. It was an especially sweet moment on a number of counts. For one, he was a black fellow who didn’t seem to care about the differences in our skin color. For another, he saw me as a peer (rather than our connecting worker to “employer.”) And finally, he sought to initiate a friendly, warm, and sincere gesture without hesitation. One human being relating to another, voluntarily and generously.
Our exchange had nothing to do with race, gender, appearances, class, or any other distinction that people insist upon in our times. It was, to me, communicating joy, our pleasure in being alive on a pleasant Thursday morning, an opportunity to be acknowledged in the nascent moments of the day.
A moment of solace in a turbulent world.
Just one human being to another.Published in