Where I grew up, anyone who drove by on the the small country road I lived on was a neighbor. And, if they are neighbors, you wave at them. Whether I was riding my bike to the covered bridge or mowing the front yard of the 7 acres we lived on, I waved whenever a car drove past. Most times, they also waved back. It is how I grew up. Although I knew most everyone I waved at, waving was one of those things you did 30+ years ago to give a greater feeling of community.
In my DFW neighborhood, some of that still remains, but not so much. When I first arrived here, about 5 years ago, I was much more likely to wave at a car passing by. If I was doing yard work, I considered it an obligation to give a friendly gesture to any passersby-whether they walked or they drove. As my months in Texas have elapsed, the likelihood of a returned wave seems all but reserved for neighbors who are standing in their yards. Nearly all cars driving by might get suspicious looks. The cars are either hired help for one of the neighbors OR they are guys in beater pickup trucks driving around on trash day looking for bargains in the “free” pilfering piles.
When I leave the neighborhood, there are a couple of neighbors who are still likely to extend a hand of friendship. In many cases, their waves are quicker then mine. One of those neighbors is also responsible for the neighborhood “fat camps”. Outside her garage, she has a heavy-duty kicking/punching bag. And, when she is able to draw in the “fatties” or “near-fatties” from the neighborhood, she takes her enrollees through her proven (?) routine. (She is fairly slender, so she does have some credibility.) My wife and I have seen her working 5-10 women in her driveway/garage or within a few blocks of her house. We have tried not to stare during the workouts. She doesn’t seem like she cuts corners for any of her victims.
With this background information, I now take you to us leaving church last Sunday. Not only do many churches have greeters, they also have people holding the door for you as you leave. Our neighborhood exercise junkie was manning (womaning?) the doors on that day. Not wanting to wait for the narrowing created by having only one door open (their were two doors), I went ahead and opened the other door and worked my way out. We had a brief conversation. I confirmed she was the “exercise lady”, and I mentioned to her how we have waved at each other a number of times. She didn’t deny it. But, she seems to be “old school” like I used to be. While my philosophy has deteriorated to the point of “only waving if recognized”, she still takes the much friendlier stance of, “wave and let God sort them out”.
I hope I can reboot my waving. Regardless of if someone knows me or not, I want people to see my smiling face and easy wave. (When I take my walks, I will often “dip” my head as an acknowledgement, but waving is almost unheard of.) I want them to see me and think, “What is different about him?” I have plenty of time to be stiff after I am dead. As long as I have the ability to move and engage in friendly gestures, I feel obligated to put forth a minimum effort of kindness. It doesn’t have to be as gregarious as a hug. It is a small effort to shrink the city down so it is more hospitable. For that moment when the gesture is exchanged, a community of two is just fine.