Friday, January 7, 2011

The Man with the Yellow Gloves

In my neighborhood, there's a young man who, every so often, sits down on a park bench at a semi-major intersection and simply waves at drivers passing by. From what I understand, he's been doing it for more years than I've lived in the area. And we never know when he'll be there; time of day and weather don't seem to deter him. Indeed, I saw him just the other day in sub-freezing temperatures. I've taken to watching for him when I approach the intersection, and doing everything I can so that he'll see me wave to HIM. He waves back with a BIG smile on his face. Pure delight -- for both of us.

And every time I drive by him I recall Joseph Charles, Berkeley's "Waving Man". For several decades, Mr. Charles would step outside his home on Martin Luther King Blvd (old Grove Street) at the morning commute, don big yellow gloves, and wave at folks on their way to work/school. As you can see in the photo above, it was a BIG wave with a BIG smile. And for people on their way to (what might be) a stressful day, it was a spirit-uplifting encounter. I relished those rare days when my commute would take me past his house. Charles died in 2002, but he has been memorialized in numerous ways around Berkeley. There's a Facebook page dedicated to him (Friends of the "Waving Man of Berkeley")! And on what would have been his 100th birthday last March, dozens of folks gathered at "his corner", and waved at the commuters.

Neither my neighborhood "waver" or Joseph Charles receive(d) anything tangible for their actions. But making people smile, lifting their spirits, changing the nature of life, creating a space of good will -- in the words of the commercial: "Priceless!"

I have no idea whether either of these men do/did what they do because of any religious motivation. But I can't help but sense an encouraging face of the Divine reflected in theirs. And when I think of "religious" directives, such as "do unto others as you would have them do to you," their actions ARE religious. We wave back. We smile back. A different world is created.

On Charles' Facebook page there is a quotation -- unattributed:
"A friendly smile and a wave are free. Don't be afraid, bend the edges of your lips to the sky and say hello!" I invite you to join me this-coming week and do just that. The recipient doesn't need to be anyone that we know; we're just taking small steps to create a better place.

Not having yellow gloves is no excuse!

Blessings for the New Year,


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