Walking hellos

I’ve always liked going for a good walk. Walking has usually given me either time to ruminate or decompress – on the day ahead or the day just about over. It has also injected some easy exercise into my life, and some time to just glide by and appreciate the world around me. For a while now I’ve been aware of a strange phenomenon that occurs on my walks. It’s one that involves the other walkers (or runners) that I meet along the way.

Now, I should tell you that I grew up in a small town – a town where walkers greeted each other as we passed by. It didn’t matter if we knew the other walkers or not, we always gave each other a “Hello!” or a “Morning!” or an “Evening!” as a greeting. We certainly made eye contact at the very least. On the other extreme, sometimes we would even stop and chat.

Not so in the “big” city. Here, in Victoria, and in the other cities where I’ve lived since I left the little village of my youth, I’ve noticed that the “walking hello” tends to be hit and miss. First off, I might pass someone who gives me a bright smile and a greeting. This puts me in the mood to smile at others who I will eventually pass (a sort of a “Pay it Forward” type of attitude, if you will.) But invariably, the next person I meet doesn’t give me the time of day. Doesn’t nod, doesn’t smile, doesn’t even actually look in my direction or acknowledge that I’m there.

The next passers-by also give me mixed results. There are the furtive looks from teenagers resulting in the ‘look away’; there are the itsy bitsy nods from one-half of a couple that is deep in conversation; there are the sniffs from dogs but complete ignores from their owners. There is the silence that thunders back to me from those people I take a chance on saying hello to first. All this greeting rejection puts me in a slight surly walking mood. Yet hope still percolates. Sometimes I end up doing a double-take in a person’s direction just in case I missed their greeting the first time. (I usually didn’t.)

However, all is not lost. Just when I think the world is full of strangers who prefer to keep to themselves, an angel walks along. She (or he) beams me the brightest smile and sings a melodious “Good morning!” directly my way. It is faith-restoring. It is good. It gives me hope that we’re all in this world together after all – single, friendly souls that just haven’t met each other yet.

I’d like to think it’s not just we small-town folk that lavish the ‘walking hello’ on the rest of you out there. I’d like to think there are a few of you from every walk of life who could (and do) play that angel role. Like in “Pay it Forward”, let’s push friendliness into common usage. If I see you out there on the sidewalks, I’ll be sure to look you in the eye, and say hello.

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