Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don't Talk to Strangers

With Elise and the kids visiting her parents in Cheney, I have pull myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to go running. The summer solstice, the longest day of the year, has passed, and though it was just a week or two ago, the mornings are already growing darker. Still, it is my favorite part of the day. The hardest part isn't getting out of bed. The hardest part is making myself stop running and get back in time to get ready to go to work.

There are a fair number of people on the trail at this time of morning. Not nearly as many as in the cars heading into work on 66 eastbound, a virtual river of tail lights three lanes wide, flowing slowly to its confluence with the Potomac. Usually there are more cyclists than runners. They make there presence known with a short bleat of their bell or an "On your left!" as they whiz by.

I say good morning to most everyone I pass. Sometimes, but not all the time, they will say good morning back and never initiate the greeting on their own. You couldn't run five feet in Brasilia without someone shouting "Bom dia!" at you, but in Northern Virginia such pleasantries are ignored, have been forgotten, or perhaps repressed at childhood.

I know this is not a universal truth, but the lot I run with seems less friendly than most. Many avoid direct eye contact as though I were Medusa and to meet my gaze meant an eternity cast in stone. The only thing I can think of is they took their parents' warning not to talk to strangers too literally.

I agree a certain amount of caution is wise, but there about a trillion times more strangers in the world than I have friends. If I don't take a chance a talk to a stranger every once in awhile--especially when Elise and the kids are not around--who am I going to talk to?

It makes me glad Sam is as friendly as he is. I haven't known him to talk to anyone he shouldn't, but the politeness and pleasantness he has shown to adults he does not know--on the playground of our apartment building, for example--does not go unnoticed. Though it is in our nature to be guarded, and many times with good reason, I hope he does not lose this affinity to smile and greet with ease. Someday, perhaps when he is on his morning jog, someone will notice and appreciate it.

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