I walk regularly these days, often in the early morning – purposefully, dressed very obviously as someone out getting some exercise. I’m very non-threatening; though my zip-up has a hood, I don’t use it unless I get caught in the drizzle. Even so, it is rare for anybody I pass along the road to acknowledge me, though I will always nod and smile. Granted, I’ve taken to going out in the dim early morning light without make-up (horrors!) It seems pointless to put it all on, only for the ‘gentle glow’ of exertion to wipe it away, so I do all that stuff after my walk. As a result I admit, I’m not at my best and it’s perhaps not particularly pleasing on the eye, to encounter a sturdy 50-something woman with bed-hair and no make-up, striding down the street or across the park. So maybe that’s reason enough for most people to walk past me as if I’m not there, their eyes focused on some point in the middle distance, lost in their own internal worlds. I don’t know what they think I might do if they should nod and smile back at me. But there it is.
It’s only when I remove my headphones as I approach and greet someone in the park, usually a dog-walker, with a clear and friendly ‘Good Morning’ that I can elicit any kind of a response – and I think I’ve forced the courtesy then, so perhaps it doesn’t count. But to be fair, it’s invariably the dog-walkers who are more forthcoming, even though I lack the canine companion that would position me firmly as a ‘friendly’ passer-by.
So today, it was a particular and delightful surprise to receive a warm smile and a ‘hello’ from a woman who was unlocking and letting herself into a shop as I passed. I pulled my headphones from my ears and she mentioned she’d seen me several times in recent days, usually a little further up the road and a little earlier (yep, Sunday, I had a lie-in). She asked me if I walked regularly, how long my walk was, and whether I was walking for weight-loss. As we chatted briefly, she offered me the warmest encouragement and congratulated me on my success so far. Without a doubt she brightened my day with her kind, positive words.
I wish more people would take the time simply to notice the strangers around them. Busy lives we all have, but a nod, a smile, even a moment of conversation – it costs nothing, and it can spread more than a little sunshine.