I know that when you drive by kids or teenagers waiting for the school bus, you may be a little intimidated by them. I am.
Let me just point out that I realize they are waiting for a bus which in most cases is not viewed as cool. I at least have my own car and am making money and can eat whatever I want for dinner, therefore, probably they think I am cool. But it’s hard to feel that way when we see them dressed all trendy and listening to their iPods and not paying any attention to us. Perhaps they spare us an uninterested glance as we go by. Or maybe it’s a 17-year old-boy that is so bleary eyed at 7:01 in the morning, he doesn’t even realize you’re driving by.
Sometimes the younger kids seem a little more approachable as they tumble around playing with each other. In general though, kids give of an aura of coolness that I feel I can’t live up to.
So I can understand why, when I was a kid, my neighbor may not have waved to me. I wasn’t scarred for life from this, but I do have vivid memories of how I felt, so obviously, his behaviors had an effect on me.
I always wave to kids now.
Even if I have to take both hands off the wheel (one has my coffee, one has to wave). Could this be a dangerous way to show someone I care? Maybe, but usually I’m driving slow enough.
Very rarely did anybody walk or drive by our house. When someone did, it was very exciting: “Whoa! Three cars just went by! I wonder what’s going on?” or “I can’t believe they walked all the way down past our house, they must really need exercise!”
When we played out in the yard or waited for the bus, we would wave to people who went by and,naturally, expected them to return the wave. Mostly, they did.
Mr. Savery was an older man who owned a farm up the road from us. He had “the Savery wave” which was very distinct. You kind of curl your hand a little and waggle it back and forth, kind of like you are trying to open a very large door knob. Some people would look up from their gardening and just give you a quick salute, others would wave dramatically, with their whole arm.
However, there was one person who never made eye contact with us, and never waved either from his car or from his yard. He was the grown son of a family in town and so we expected some kind of recognition. But he used to just drive by and not even acknowledge us! My little sister and I felt offended. When he drove by we used to sing the Tal Bachman song “She’s so high above me” except that we changed the words to: “He’s so high-ee-i-i, high abo-ove us!” We assumed that his non-actions meant he thought he was better than us.
Most likely, this wasn’t true. Most likely, he felt awkward and didn’t know whether it was appropriate to wave to kids. Maybe we intimidated him with our childhood cool factor. Maybe he was shy. Maybe he was angry. Maybe he had broken hands. Who knows?
All I know is that I always wave and smile to the kids on my street when I see them. When I’m out walking the dog, I stop and have a conversation. Because I remember as a kid, I did not feel cool. And I was hurt when grownups ignored me, especially when I was standing in plain sight at the end of my driveway! I’m sure even apathetic teenagers appreciate the gesture (I know I did) and little kids won’t start making up songs about me.
They may think I’m a dork, but at the very least, they won’t think I’m a snob. And guess what? They usually smile and wave back.
Do you drive by the same kids every morning on the way to work? Are your young neighbors always outside when you go past? If you’re out walking the dog, do you avoid eye contact at all costs? I dare you to do something totally crazy. I dare you to acknowledge the kids and wave or smile. If you want to go completely bonkers, say hello. If you already do this, that’s great! If you’ve tried it and they stick their tongues out at you, oh well! In reality, they’ll probably talk about you and say “Oh yeah, that lady, she always waves, she’s nice.”
I don’t know why many of us often ignore others in situations like this. Maybe it’s our own childhood insecurities coming out. Maybe we are just lazy. Maybe our hands are broken. All I know is that if you haven’t tried it yet, then go ahead and see what happens.
Put your coffee mug down and wave already.
Even if they don’t acknowledge you very much now, they will remember your friendliness and learn from it. Believe me, I know.
Molly Bouffard used to think she was just a regular girl—until she realized that she was actually wicked awesome! She has been following her heart and staying true to herself despite what others think for quite some time now. She is a licensed massage therapist and also manages volunteers and fundraising for non-profits. She lives in the woods with her husband, her dog, some chickens and some bees. She likes to spend time with her family, cook, garden, run and reminisce. She also enjoys girly movies and secretly wants to write a trashy romance. She decided to start writing her story because she works in a nursing home where people sometimes lose their memories. She thanks her parents and her siblings for an awesome childhood and for teaching her how to read. She thanks her husband for bringing out the best in her and thanks her dog for his excellent snuggling skills. She hopes you enjoy reading her stories and that you can relate!
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta