Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
Most of the days I bike to school, I pass an older gentleman who’s usually standing right in his front door frame. He is looking out and says a friendly ‘hello’ in return to whomever takes time to notice him.
It only took me a week or two to establish this morning greeting routine with him, and even after I’d been teaching solely online for a few weeks, we picked it right back up after I returned to teaching in the classroom.
At first, I felt like I was definitely having an impact. How nice was it of me to take time and attention to greet this gentleman, who was obviously lonely? (Otherwise, why stand in that door frame at all?) How kind and generous was I? I felt really good about myself.
But it didn’t take long for my egocentric assumptions to become clear to me (that’s an egocentric sentence right there!) Why was I really saying hello to this man? However it may benefit him, perhaps there was something in it for me, too?
This man is only one example in a line of many regular passers-by. I know the two elderly twin ladies who go jogging every morning. I’ve seen the red-haired boy grow up as he passed us on his bike year after year. I chatted with the lady and her border collie before and also after her beloved dog passed. I love these little moments of connection, and here’s why:
These familiar faces are like little beacons of common humanity among our otherwise often anonymous world. In the city where I live, few people will greet you spontaneously on the street. If I ask my students, most of them describe us as a rather ‘cold’ culture. But we’re still human beings. We still crave connection. We all still want to be seen.
These little greetings along the way do just that, for me. And I’ve spoken to others with very similar stories. We only need to see a face in the same spot, on the same route a couple of times, before there’s a first, friendly smile. Perhaps it might grow into a small chat, even.
I can’t help smiling and feeling joyful after the elderly gentleman greets me. He calls me ‘girl’ which is flattering and always has a smile on his face, which is heartwarming.
Maybe my simple ‘goodmorning’ brings him joy as well, who knows. What’s sure, however, is that I’m so grateful that he takes time out of his morning to stand there, and greet us passers-by, including me.