A simple thing
I live in Apex, NC, also known as “the peak of good living.” One of the things I like about my town is that they have built a walkway through the woods and marshes around a small lake called Lake Pine. The trail is about 2 miles around and most of the time you will see dozens of people walking, jogging, rollerblading and cycling in this peaceful setting. There are enough trees to muffle the noise from roads and other busy areas nearby and it is a popular place.
You see people of all types here. Different races. Different nationalities. Different ages. Different physical conditions. People move at different paces. The course is fine for older folks like me who are not in the best of shape but challenging enough that the more fitness-minded can do more laps at a faster pace and benefit.
My wife and I walk there as many mornings as we can, which is admittedly less than as many mornings as we’d like to. When you go often enough you will soon recognize “regulars” who seem to go at the same time every day. Because the path is circular and has different entry points you will see people going either direction and often see those going the other way twice on a walk. You tend to come to know the regulars by sight.
One thing I have noticed is the difference in the way people act as they pass you by. A significant percentage are in their own world and either don’t see you or don’t acknowledge you. Some have their iPods plugged in and, rather than listen to the sounds of nature, are following whatever music or talk they choose. Others are with a partner or group and are so engrossed in their talk they only notice you when you get in the way. Sadly, there are times when my wife and I do this, we get focused on things we need to say or do. Still more seem to be in training and are so focused on speed and endurance they have no time for anything else. Finally some seem to see you but don’t feel it is important to acknowledge your presence.
But a significant number are different. They do acknowledge you. Most often it is a nod or small wave. Sometimes it is a word or two of greeting. With some the greeting is perfunctory. With others you can tell that they too recognize you. But there is one woman who stands out in my mind. She is a little older and often walks with a friend. When she sees us a smile always comes to her face and she gives us a “good morning.” Lest we feel she has singled us out I’ve heard the same greeting given to others as she approached and passed. On cool fall mornings like now there are many people walking the trail. This would mean that she must give dozens of smiling “good mornings.”
Since she walks the trail in the opposite direction from us we frequnetly pass her twice. It is not unusual for those you pass twice to not acknowledge you a second time. They have already done the greeting thing. Common too is those who great you twice in a way that makes you understand that they don’t remember greeting you the first time. With her we get a second smile and a “have a good day.” It communicates “I remember seeing you the first time.”
Sometimes the grace we give to others is a simple thing. It takes little or no effort. I don’t know that lady other than by sight; I don’t know the first thing about her. But I do know that her kind greeting makes me happy. Day after day, as she takes her morning walk, she greets dozens of people with kindness. I don’t have a sense she is on a “mission” to be kind, it seems to just flow from her. Her life challenges me to want to be someone like her; a person from whom kindness and grace just flows. Lord knows I have a way to go.