Since Covid-19 sent all of us to our rooms, everyone has been exploring new ways of surviving isolation. It’s especially tricky for me as I am a “people addict.” I enjoy connecting with old friends and meeting new ones through Less Cancer. The past decade brought me lots of new friends . . . until Covid reared its ugly head earlier this year.
At first I experimented with various ideas for reducing my Covid anxiety. I tried everything from kicking a soccer ball to crafting, cooking and running. Oddly enough, the one thing that stuck was cycling, even though I had not ridden a bike with any regularity since 1976, during my childhood in Michigan. When I rediscovered biking, I immediately realized I liked seeing other humans actively engaged out on the trails. I wasn’t having conversations or forging friendships with them, but it was great just to see them!
Not only does my bicycle get me outside among other people, it’s the perfect companion for a thinker like me. Often, the wheels turning in my head synch with the bike’s spinning wheels.
One day when I was riding I noticed a youngster peddling towards me on a pink bike with training wheels. Judging by the expression on her face, she thought she was approaching Frankenstein. I totally understood! All 6 foot, 6 inches of me perched on my bike, wearing sunglasses and a black face mask has to be intimidating. I could tell the little person was afraid of me. As a father of little kids (long ago), I decided to send up the friend flag with a wave. I feared the worst, but my new friend waved back!
My wave had conveyed the fact that I was smiling under my mask. After the child and I passed each other, I wondered if others I encountered would wave back. They did! Since spring of 2020 I have been waving at every cyclist and walker I pass on the various trails I ride. I noticed at Thanksgiving that not only did solitary walkers and cyclists wave back, some of them waved enthusiastically, as if they were hailing a cab. We were communicating, albeit on a basic level, but it was enough to buoy my spirits—and perhaps theirs.
Since I first began waving, I have raised a friendly hand to hundreds—perhaps thousands. In a matter of seconds, I have silently communicated, “Hello, I see you as a fellow human being looking for joy/escape/peace in the out-of-doors—and I hope you’re doing okay.” That’s what I feel, and the message I hope to convey.
By my (unscientific) calculations, I’d say seven out of 10 people wave back. Some don’t because they need both hands on the handlebars. Sometimes I do, too, so I manage a quick peace sign with my fingers.
I am a non-discriminatory waver; I wave at everyone. As a result, my bike rides become small, peaceful transactions of respect and honor for other human beings. Every day I get to simply acknowledge people, recognizing their existence and importance in our turbulent world. It’s so much more personal than a retweet, like or heart on the computer or smartphone.
Dolly Parton says America is so divided that people just love to hate. Unfortunately, I agree—but we didn’t start out that way and don’t need to continue down that dismal path. The change really begins with standing up for others and speaking for those with no voice.
And, perhaps, with a wave to someone who may not think or believe or vote as you do. Who can argue with that? In this season of giving, I hope to see more waving. It’s a simple act that shows others that they matter—and that you care. In a world of disconnection, we CAN connect, starting with a wave.