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Moore: Catching the wave

Waving

Columnist John Moore’s mother (center right) and her five siblings spent time on the front porch waving at passing cars in rural Arkansas during the 1940s and ‘50s.

The yards had been mostly vacant on the street around the corner from our house, save for the tricycles, small bikes and other toddler transportation.

But the warmer weather brought out the owners of these wheeled treasures.

On my way home, motion caught my left eye. She appeared to be about 5 years old. Straddling her bike, she stopped to wave at me. I tapped the brakes on my old truck so that she could see my quick wave back.

She smiled. I smiled. I went on home.

I thought what a great job her parents had done with her. As mine had done with me.

Friendliness, cordiality, whatever you want to call it had found its way back. And it was through the kind gesture of a child.

In my hometown, everyone waved. If you were in a parking lot, the Piggly Wiggly, or going down the road, you waved. If you didn’t, it meant you didn’t see them or that you two weren’t on speaking terms.

A wave was what you did when you weren’t close enough for a handshake or a hug. These were the days when a hug didn’t mean anything more than what it was — a gesture of friendship or love.

But we’re talking about waving.

That little black-headed girl had reminded me of something that has been lost to time. A simple wave.

Ashdown, Arkansas, had about 5,000 people. The whole county had fewer than 15,000 folks. But we all waved at each other.

Each age group had their own style and approach to waving. The kids used a quick, shaking-in-the-air hand gesture. The old folks simply held their hands in the air from their front porch when you drove by.

But the teens and other younger drivers waved with fingers.

Your first finger raised from the steering wheel of your Oldsmobile as you passed someone else in their Pontiac meant, “Hey, good to see you.” Your first two fingers meant you were good friends.

But raising your whole hand from the steering wheel and into the air meant, “Meet me in the parking lot at the Pizza Hut.”

People communicated just fine before cell phones and the internet.

But waving has waned. Lost to a generation whose world turned slower than ours does now. They knew how to keep their blood pressure down. It was as simple as refusing to allow stressful things into their lives. And being cordial with a wave was like a reset button, even on a bad day.

It’s difficult to be stressed if you wave at someone. And waving was the baseline for community kindness.

When that little girl shook her hand in the air to greet me, I hadn’t had anyone wave at me in — well, I couldn’t even remember how long it’s been.

But it reminded me that I had stopped waving too. I could blame others, but the truth is, when you live where a couple of hundred thousand other folks also do it’s just too easy to go about your business and focus on yourself.

Maybe not waving anymore is part of why our country is now so divided.

Hugging is off limits pretty much these days. It ain’t politically correct.

But we still have waving. And we ought to pick the habit back up.

It sure couldn’t hurt.

— John Moore is a Whitehouse resident. His column appears Friday. His books, “Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now,” and “Write of Passage Volume II,” are available from Amazon, and TheCountryWriter.com. His weekly podcast appears on Spotify and iTunes. Email john@johnmoore.net

Today's Bible verse

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:30-31

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