Many of you may not know this, but my family and I moved to North Carolina in late May. While the move has been a positive one, it took place when – for lack of better words – this country has been in a mess of turmoil. Racism, political polarization, social media bullying, and religious noise seemed to be the norm……and for me, it meant my personal life and attitude was being hugely impacted negatively. Day in and day out it was becoming harder to find something positive to focus on, and for me that meant despondency was my first and strongest thought on most days.
a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage.
I pretty much had lost hope and did not demonstrate much courage in my life. Day in and day out. It sucked.
While this was happening, something else was occurring as well. For, on each drive from my new home to work, on the corner of Midway School Road and Thomas School Road, a black woman stood each morning waving to passing cars. As she waved, her face was alive with the brightest and most sincere smile I had seen in quite some time. At first, my reaction was to think, “gah, that woman is crazy. Doesn’t she know how screwed up we humans are? Her mornings would be better spent somewhere else.” But as each day passed, and no matter if I passed at 7am or 8:45am, she’d be out there waving and smiling brightly to each and every vehicle that passed. Her arm would be raised high and with confidence, as if attempting to throw out the joy that was so evident on her face.
This daily event was “no big deal” to me, at least I convinced myself of that fact at first. She was just doing something that made no sense, and while my attitude moved from the idea of her being crazy to more like apathy towards her actions, I could not shake her beaming, smiling face. The only time I would not see it would be on rainy days, and when that would happen I realized I would actually feel disappointment. Maybe even concern……I wondered if she was okay……until I realized she never came out if it rained. And slowly, with each passing day, I realized I was trying to smile at others more as the residue of her smile seemed often to be reverberating in my own mind. “Gosh, that smile is contagious…….maybe I should wear one once in a while, too……”
The truth is, my friends, after weeks and weeks of passing this person, I had to acknowledge something – she was changing my life. Day after day, she was sending love to me in a world where hate seemed to reign. No matter her religion, her social standing, her race, her gender, her sexuality, or her political affiliation, she waved and smiled and connected with strangers all morning long. She connected with ME. Sincerely. Physically. Consistently. She seemed to care SO MUCH about this, she invested hours each non-rain morning spreading this message with no expectation of return. And it was working out a miracle in my heart and thoughts.
When I finally formed these realizations in my own mind, I was shocked. And, in that shock, a flicker of hope sparked in the depths of my soul……and it felt good. Courage began to spread deep in my gut and I could not contain it. I felt energized for the first time in months in a way that reminded me of the Gina that used to exist; one that knew it was okay to believe in a future that was not all bad.
So, the next day I decided I had to meet this person “for real”. When I got to that corner, I pulled over, shut my car off, and began to walk toward the woman that initiated this change in me. As I got closer, almost feeling the power of her smile as cars passed by, I was surprised to see she was much older than I had expected. Her raised arm was so feeble and aged, I was surprised it could sustain the hours of waving it accomplished everyday. She was also tiny, MUCH smaller than she appeared as I flew by her day after day. I started to feel a bit nervous as I took each step, something my extroverted personality rarely feels, and also careful not to scare her. I quickly introduced myself and as she turned her gaze to me, she shook my hand and said, “Hello, I am Grace.”
To be continued……….