I’ve been walking to work about once a week lately, which is worth mentioning since it’s a little farther than two miles. Obviously, I haven’t been doing it for the time efficiency; rather, with my work having been so pedestrian focused as of late, I’ve adapted this form of transportation to more parts of my life in attempts to practice a bit of my preaching. And, of course, it gives me the illusory feeling of being in a big city, one for which I’ve hungered since leaving Rome. On this particular day, I had left the house later than usual, and as I came upon a certain intersection, I spied a somewhat familiar sight.
He was a white-haired gentleman likely in his eighties. Wheelchair-bound, I could always count on him to be parked on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building, black leather jacket on despite all weather conditions and a cigarette hanging placidly out of the corner of his mouth. I usually only saw him as I biked past at this hour and was secretly pleased to now be able to get a close-up look at one of the characters in my commute.
He had his back turned toward me as I walked up, and so as not to startle him, I passed in front of him before unleashing my excitement.
I had startled him anyway. “Good morning,” he repeated, voice a little raspy.
And that’s all. I smiled and continued on my way as he continued with his cigarette. However, with the encouragement of that first greeting, in that two mile walk, I passed through six neighborhoods of vastly different demographics and exchanged 14 “Good Morning”s with a real sampling of the Long Beach community–with chatty crossing guards, busy gardeners, young folks and old. No commitments had been made, no friendship offered, no privacy sacrificed–yet, basic human connections had been realized. And it really made my morning.
It’s convenient to isolate oneself even when so close to strangers–to roll up our windows and pretend that we live in a box. But if we’d each just reach out, just enough to acknowledge each other’s existence, we’d have everything to gain from it…even if it’s only a more enjoyable walk. Go on, see for yourself.