The Power of Strangers, Stop Signs, and Simple Acts

Every day I take the same route to work. After leaving the highway, I zig-zag through some small city streets to avoid traffic. At one intersection, there’s a 24-hour daycare, and outside there’s a gentleman that’s there to receive kids as they’re dropped off. Hot, cold, wind, sleet, rain — it doesn’t matter, he’s always out there.

But he’s not just there, he’s smiling, too. And he’s waving. He doesn’t just wave to the kids and parents that he knows from the daycare; he waves to every single car that briefly pauses at the stop sign to “his” intersection.

He’s been waving to me for years. In fact, a few years ago, we developed our own “wave”. I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point instead of waving he started saluting me. If I had to guess, he noticed my buzz-cut (at the time) and sunglasses, and must have thought I was in the military or something. Anyway, he salutes me every day, twice a day, to and from work. And I return the gesture.

Today, though, he did something else. As I drove by at 7:10, he noticed that I was later than normal, and he started laughing and pointing at his watch, like, “Hey, man, you better hurry up — you’re late for work!”

He smiles. He waves. He takes notice to what’s going on in others’ lives (like the fact that I was later than normal today). His simple, powerful gestures make me feel happy. I feel noticed and even a little “known” by a guy that doesn’t even know me.

What difference could we make in others’ lives if we took notice? If we smiled? If we waved?

This guy doesn’t live a glamorous life. He doesn’t have some amazing job. He isn’t rich. He probably doesn’t have everything he wants. But that doesn’t keep him from smiling. It doesn’t keep him from being happy. And it doesn’t keep him from sharing his joy with others.

Dude’s a hero.