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A friendly nod works wonders

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By W.B. Evans

I recently read a newspaper article about this fella who sits on his front porch in all kinds of weather and just waves to motorists.I liked the story; it was a good, but it was a bit unusual these days and times.Why?Cause folks don’t normally speak to strangers.Sometimes, that doesn’t make much sense; they will remain strangers unless no one makes a casual effort to speak or at least nod their head in acknowledgment.You know, I’ve been told more than once told that I sorta go overboard on the “howdy” thing.Seems the politically correct thing is to avoid eye contact. I surely hope we haven’t gotten to the point that we assume every stranger to be a potential mugger.In my working days, I frequently traveled to New York on business.At lunch, several of us would walk along Broadway and I was always the butt of everybody’s jokes.No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get out of the habit of nodding my head to complete strangers.I think some of my New York associates had a little bet going to see if anyone on the street would return my nod.I did get a surprising number of gestures from strangers and most of them seemed friendly.During a recent visiting to Maryland to see my granddaughter and her husband, (both natives of Lancaster), we stopped by several of the huge malls from Delaware to Virginia.I usually sit on a bench with other folks to guard the loaded-down plastic bags while they keep shopping.It isn’t as bad as it sounds, though.As soon as you nod, the conversation starts.To my surprise, I was reminded just what a small world we live in.I struck up a conversation with a black man who was raised in Chester and he was delighted for the opportunity to “talk to someone from home.”He told me all about his family. It was a good afternoon and made my bench time fly by.On one visit, I nodded to a Vietnamese man who had grown up in Saigon prior to the Indo China war. I mentioned several landmarks, which brought smiles to his face. We were shortly joined by his family members who spoke Vietnamese and French. I was outclassed in the language fields, but his English was excellent.Folks passing by gave us funny looks, but we didn’t care.You know, Marines are the best to nod at. He’s easy to spot in a crowd, too.That small patch of hair on top of his head and the gleaming white sidewalls make him stand out.Sometimes, men from other military branches copy the haircut, but there is something about a Marine, which identifies him.I yelled out “Semper Fi” and was greeted by a big grin from the young warrior's face.As we talked, I told him that I wasn’t an ex devil-dog, but an airman from another era.Our differences in age and branch affiliation didn’t lessen our comradeship at all.A simple nod from an old man to a young soldier lets him know that folks appreciate his service.The battles he fights lets me sit on a bench and nod.Don’t you think if more folks nodded, there would be less to fuss and worry about?But life ain’t always roses; I have learned that sometimes there’s a thorn or two when it comes to this nodding thing.Every once and while, you get a real ugly look, followed by a quick whisper.I reckon they figure just because I nod, I’m a little too strange and too friendly. But that reaction is a chance I’m willing to take. Besides, if the nod wins out, we won’t be strangers very long.