Passing under streetlights… shouldn’t we nod?

Tom Capuano
Kirksville, MO

In the Midwest, in small and mid-sized towns at least, people who are strangers to each other sometimes acknowledge each other with a nod, at the very least, when passing by each other, at least during the day. Sometimes even a hello. Maybe not all the time, maybe not even most of the time, but once in a while a signal accompanies brief eye contact; it’s a way of affirming the other’s personhood, I think, and is one of the reasons I’ve found living in the Midwest so positive and even uplifting. What’s strange is this: when I go to a big city, I can’t take that custom with me. It doesn’t seem to work. Seems dangerous even. Especially between people of different races. But why should it be this way? Shouldn’t we nod? Acknowledge the humanness of the other? Maybe not all the time, maybe not even most, but once in a while, if not at night, at least by day, shouldn’t we remind ourselves that that person passing by is human like me? It feels risky, I suppose, yes; but most of the boldest actions for positive change require just that.


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