Much to my children’s dismay, I am a waver. I don’t believe you have to only be a mid-western American to be outwardly friendly with people you encounter while moving around the planet. In fact, I generally guard against being the one who fails to acknowledge someone within the periphery. Regularly, I time a big goofy wave. This practice is fomented through the fear of perhaps failing to reciprocate a wave or, more succinctly, not leaving someone hanging! I have been especially eager to greet others after the isolation of the pandemic.
There weren’t many opportunities to wave from the Peloton bike in the den, so this extrovert feels the need to hail folks two streets over. It’s rare if I am not initiating this affable, attentive but wordless expression. At the very least, I’ll wink, nod, smile but somehow try to flash some pleasant visual contact. Why?

"So this extrovert feels the need to hail folks two streets over"

Well, Seinfeld’s Costanza had it right: “You know, we are living in a society! We’re supposed to act in a civilized way!” Poor George was up against a standoffish NYC vibe, but in general, I do believe a hearty hand howdy (what?) can go a long way! Much like my word choice right there, I do embarrass myself daily with some overzealous attempts to connect with fellow Americans (well…. strangers). I truly lived Jack Lemmon’s role in “The Out-of-Towners” while working in NYC in the late eighties. I barely survived many a scrape with some less enthusiastic passers-by.

"I do embarrass myself daily with some overzealous attempts to connect with fellow Americans"

Once I was struck for attempting friendly eye contact with a gentleman on 41st street. He was in the midst of an illicit transaction and took offense at my intrusion. Yet, I haven’t learned my lesson as I seem to own an arm with an uncontrollable, instinctive wag reflex, much like a dog’s tail. Even obstacles such as today’s rampant use of earbuds and cell phones paired with zeitgeist stoicism haven’t slowed my need to demonstrate a touch of kindness towards a fellow pedestrian. I certainly realize not every wave I offer will be appreciated, accepted, or even noticed, but the benefits really do outweigh any awkwardness or occasional punch!

"I seem to own an arm with an uncontrollable, instinctive wag reflex, much like a dog’s tail."

Let’s take a look at what a momentary piece of affirmation seasoned with a pinch of respect could do for each party involved: Each successful wave has the potential to unlock some neurochemicals of happiness if all goes well. Serotonin, Dopamine, Endorphins, and Oxytocin each hold the wonderful possibility of lifting our mood and outlook. Dopamine, the “feel-good hormone,” may be naturally released into the partakers of the manifested mini-connection. It’s the same minuscule “high” one gets from receiving a “like” from a social media post, but received from an actual present human. Endorphins relieve pain through movement such as dance. 

"Each successful wave has the potential to unlock some neurochemicals of happiness"

I believe the quick tiny bond shared by a cordial exchange has an element of a satisfying dance to it, albeit a dance with only one move. If one seeks the “happiness chemical” Serotonin, simply soak in the perceived goodness of a willing interchanger while also enjoying the rewards of your own mindfulness. You may well whistle your way through the rest of your day! Oxytocin is perhaps the most realized asset from waving. Compassion, trust, and the mere social interaction itself, release the “Big O.” This mighty hormone is known as the “cuddling hormone,” and who could shun that type of warmth? You wave as much as I do, and you are really self-medicating by one micro-dose at a time!

"I believe the quick tiny bond shared by a cordial exchange has an element of a satisfying dance to it, albeit a dance with only one move."

Picture the familiar hometown human interest story on the local news of “Mr. Bill” – the ancient, beloved Crossing Guard. My kids tease I will also spend my final years sharing a rickety salute from the corner with all the fine people on Main Street. Fair enough. I still hold to the idea that a random upward palm sway could simply make a fellow human feel included on the journey when it mattered for them most!! So America, do not wave off the hidden power of an earnest wave!

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John Hughes

John Hughes

John Hughes hails from Wilmington, Delaware. He has lived throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England in his 35 years working in the Commercial Furniture Industry. He remains an active parent of 2 children in their twenties and enjoys running and golfing.

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