Where I’m from, people still wave
to each other, and if someone doesn’t,
you might say of her, She wouldn’t
wave at you to save her life—
but you try anyway, give her a smile.
This is just one of the many ways
we take care of one another, say: I see you,
I feel you, I know you are real. I wave
to Rick who picks up litter while walking
his black labs, Olive and Basil—
hauling donut boxes, cigarette packs
and countless beer cans out of the brush
beside the road. And I say hello
to Christy, who leaves almond croissants
in our mailbox and mason jars of fresh-
pressed apple cider on our side porch.
I stop to check in on my mother-in-law—
more like a second mother—who buys us
toothpaste when it’s on sale, and calls
if an unfamiliar car is parked at our house.
We are going to have to return to this
way of life, this giving without expectation,
this loving without conditions. We need
to stand eye to eye again, and keep asking—
no matter how busy—How are you,
how’s your wife, how’s your knee?, making
this talk we insist on calling small,
though kindness is what keeps us alive.
As I pass my neighbors in the street on the way to the post office or to get some groceries, I marvel how it is that we want to acknowledge one another – sometimes a conversation, sometimes hello and a wave, sometimes just a smiling nod. As Crews says, This is just one of the many ways / we take care of one another. So necessary, this simple way of taking care, of saying ‘I know you are real’.
We all have or know of a Rick, a Christy, our mothers-in-law (yes, especially those much maligned beings) with their small and large kindnesses. This is the way of life we must return to, this giving without expectation, this loving without conditions. So simple and so important, this human interconnectedness.
We must keep asking the how-are-yous, making / this talk we insist on calling small – just love that, the talk we call small which may just be the most meaningful part of someone’s day. Because kindness is what keeps us alive no matter how insignificant it may appear on the surface.
Can’t help but be drawn to the poems that encourage kindness, those simple forms of human communication that are sometimes forgotten. So say hello to your neighbors and be glad for the small talk they offer you.
By the way, how’s your knee?