Thank You, Ruth Harper, And Goodbye
by Bob Olson
A recent newspaper article featured a story about
a woman who was hit by a car and died. It was a hit-and-run accident that
occurred just up the street from my home. Although we didnít know the
seventy-five-year-old woman, my wife, Melissa, and I could not help but to feel
deeply disturbed by the news of her death. Let me explain why...
A couple years ago while I was driving down my
street, I saw this same woman walking her dog. Her back was to me, but as soon
as she heard my car, she turned and waved "hello." Hesitantly, I waved
backóI was afraid she would realize I was someone she did not know and think I
was strange waving back at her. But in the time I thought about it, she was far
The next time I saw this woman walking her dog, she again
turned at the sound of my car and began waving to me. Not so surprised this time, I waved
back with enthusiasm. It felt good to have a new friend in the world to wave
This went on for some time. I was excited for
Melissa to witness this kind womanís greeting, so one day when I spotted the
woman down the road, I forewarned Melissa that she was in for a treat by
exclaiming, "Oh, thereís my new friend..." As I drove by waving,
Melissa waved along too with a curious look on her face.
As my schedule changed, I didnít see the nice
woman anymore. Melissa would often comment, "I wonder where our friend is
today." As silly as it may sound, we felt a sadness whenever we drove down
the street without seeing her.
The newspaper interviewed the man who found the
womanís body. The man said he didnít know the woman, but he normally saw her
on his way to breakfastóshe always waved to him as he drove by. This
particular morning he didnít see her. On his return from breakfast, he noticed
her body on the side of the snow-covered road. Although he phoned the police
immediately from his cellular phone, her injuries were fatal. She was pronounced
dead at the hospital a couple hours later.
Melissa mentioned to me that she felt compelled
to go to the funeral services. "But we donít even know her," I said,
not admitting I felt the same impulse. "I know," she responded,
"I just feel like we had a connection with her." I agreed, of course.
And it was then that I discovered a little lesson about life.
I donít know if this sweet woman was a little
nutty or just unusually friendly, but her simple gesture of waving
"hello" to every car that drove by somehow touched people. I know she
touched Melissa, myself and that man who found her on the side of the road. Iím
sure there were many others.
I drive by many of the same people day after day and feel
nothing. Heck, I have worked with people day in and day out and felt less connection with
them. Perhaps if they had just returned a smile now and then it would have been different.
Instead, sometimes the best part of my day was when a stranger waved to me on my way home.
Iím not suggesting that we all begin waving
"hello" to strangers, but I can think of worse habits to start. Iíll
bet most car drivers have exchanged derogatory hand signals to a lot
more strangers than they have waved "hello" to. Why are we so
uncomfortable waving "hello" to people we donít know?
Have you ever smiled at someone in the hall at
work, or on the street, and had them just stare blankly at you? Doesnít that
feel lousy? Why are we so cold to one another? Especially when it feels so good
to exchange... well, I guess Iíll call it an expression of love.
Couldnít a wave "hello" be considered
a gesture that sends a little love? A smile might fall into the same category,
although I think itís safer to smile at someone than to give them a big wave.
So a wave must send more love than a smile. And a hug would be sending even more
love. And a kiss would hold a mountain of love.
Ever hug a child? Ever be hugged by a
childóone of those great big bear hugs? It feels so good it makes your spine
melt. Children donít hold back their love until adults teach them to. Thatís
why nobody hesitates to wave or smile at a childówe know the child will
reciprocate. Maybe that is our problem; we fear that others wonít reciprocate
the love we send.
Perhaps the reason we sometimes stare blankly at
a person who smiles at us is because we are caught off-guard, even suspicious,
of anyone we donít know who is sending us love. "What do they want? They
must want something from me? Am I being manipulated here? I must beware."
By the time we think it through and realize that
there are no strings attached to their smile, the person is gone and the moment
is over. Now we have hurt that person. Sure itís a minor hurt, but we rejected
them just the same. When we finally get a second chance to smile at that person
at a future date, theyíre gun shy and look away. They donít want to risk
being rejected again.
An individual only needs to be rejected a few
times before he or she will stop waving and smiling at strangers altogether.
Before you know it, nobodyís exchanging love with anyone they donít know and
trust. The result is the world as we know itóa world that needs more people
who are not afraid to wave and smile at one another. Our world needs more people
like that nice old woman on my street. Yet, now we have lost her.
With the help of this loving woman who wasnít
afraid to wave "hello" to everyone passing her on the street, I
learned a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, she had to die before I really thought
about it. I guess, though, itís not unusual for death to teach us the most
important lessons about life. Thanks to this wonderful soul, I have learned a
lesson while I am still healthy and alive. Thank you, Ruth Harper, and goodbye.
articles by Bob Olson, visit www.ofspirit.com/bobolson.htm