A few years ago Jim and I took the old road home from a trip to Arkansas to see his dad. We drove around the Bentonville square and then took side streets to places we’d never been. On one street that turned into a cul-de-sac, we looked at the houses and discussed their curb appeal. We turned around at the end of the street and went back the way we’d come. Obviously there wasn’t much traffic on the street, and a woman, who had seen us go one way and then return, tossed a friendly wave our way. We both spontaneously smiled and waved back.
We wandered on toward Pineville and detoured around that square for fun and on by McDonald County High School at Anderson and noted the changes there. It was hard to imagine that the old highway used to be our major route to college in Fayetteville all those years ago. We were wrapped in nostalgia, but aware of the present, and that woman’s wave to us kept flitting across my mind.
The next morning when we started out on our morning walk, a car came toward us on the first block. I had no idea who was behind the wheel, but I smiled and waved. The driver waved back and smiled.
Of course, we had waved at neighbors, but not at strangers. Now we made it a habit to smile and wave at cars. In a few days, folks in cars we’d seen recently waved before we could get our hands up to start the exchange. Each wave of greeting made our steps a little lighter and lifted our spirits.
Now that I walk alone, I wondered at waving at strangers, but I decided why not? That woman on the side street in Bentonville waved at us, complete strangers. The odds of me ever meeting that woman again are one in a gazillion (my math figures). Since I wasn’t driving that day, I couldn’t even tell you what side of town we were on. But that stranger changed my life with her friendly wave, and she will never know it.
That’s one thing about life. We all change other folks’ lives, and we aren’t always aware when and how or that we even did it. We change lives by an exchange on an elevator. We change them by letting someone in front of us in traffic. We change them with a conversation in a grocery store.
A few years ago Jim was picking up some groceries when a woman stopped him in the produce aisle and told him she loved his colorful vest. When he was at the dairy section, he saw her once more, and this time she asked him if the vest was wool and even touched it. When with a cocky grin he told me the story, I said, “You can never wear that vest when you’re going to the store alone.” It became our little joke, and each time he wore that vest there was a devil-may-care gleam in his eyes, and we laughed about him still having ‘It.’ That woman changed our lives by giving us a little secret to tease about. She will never know it.
Since he passed into the blue beyond, I’ve cleaned out Jimmie’s clothes (with help from my ramrodding sister), but I did not give away that vest. I never will. But I digress, as usual.
All I ask is that you wave at a stranger today. It will give your day a little sparkle, and it may just change someone’s life, but you will never know.