Too Busy to Wave?

There is a person in our neighborhood that defies and therefore defines our hustle-bustle culture. He is seen during my normal driving route that takes my son to and from school.

I call him Waving Man.

He is a tall man in his late 30s. Judging by the expression that is always on his face, he was born with an IQ that falls short of society's acceptable standards. His behavior also reveals that he is different. He stands on the street and waves. He waves at the cars that go by. He stands in the same place, next to the mailbox just outside the house in which he lives, usually wearing a shirt with evidence of spilled food just under his chin. He stands there in the fall and when it snows. I have even seen him standing in the rain. Always waving. The first few times I saw him I thought he was selling firewood. Then after seeing him a hundred times I decided he just likes to wave.

Typically, traffic would whiz right by him but today the traffic was bogged down and going slow enough for passing drivers to see him. About three cars ahead of me I noticed something. I saw the driver wave back at the man. Two cars ahead of me, same thing. One car ahead of mine, the woman waved.

I waved.

Waving Man keeps waving and waving. To him it is a constant thing, and I don't know if it really affects him if he sees others waving back because it doesn't show on his face.

But it felt good to wave back. Like waving was some great and scandalous act of kindness or at the very least an act of tolerance. I have seen him so many times before that I can gauge my character by my reaction to him on a given day. I don't always wave. Sometimes I whizz by in a rush allowing the stress of the upcoming day take hold with thoughts about all the important things I have to do and, Why is he out there anyway - he must be stupid, running through my head. Nice.

And then I would be forced to react at my own internal behavior, reflect and recalibrate. Some days I think about the man and ponder why he waves. Some days I fly right by like so many others, knowing he is there but not wanting to be bothered.

Today I waved.

There are probably several people in my life who have done some important thing or another for me or on my behalf only to be lost from my memory now. In contrast I will always remember Waving Man. Maybe it is only the simple repetition, but profound things can be simple too. Was God's divine assignment for this man to wave? Of all the things that our society would hope for a person, accomplishment, success, or at the very least a clean shirt, this man gets to wave. But there is something in his wave that challenges the constant drone of the daily demands that we place on ourselves. Does the uniqueness of that act alone make it some sort of cosmic conduit that connects us to God because we are forced to reflect? Like a life preserver thrown out in a sea of hurry, stress, ambition, and guilt to allow us to grab hold of a moment that is peaceful, transcend the chaos, Waving Man waves.

February 15, 2008 at 4:04 PM

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