I waved to the Colonel again this morning, and he waved back. He is a retired colonel of the United States Army. He probably does not know who I am—I am just a face behind the steering wheel of a car. But we frequently cross paths in the morning. He walks west on the sidewalk, part of his morning routine, walking for his health. I drive east on the street, on my way to work. We do not see each other every morning—neither of us has a routine so precise that one could set a watch by our passing. But when I see him, I wave, and most of the time he waves back.
His wife and I have spoken a few times. She represents our part of the city in the state legislature. Last year she and her staff helped to unravel a difficulty my family was having with a state agency. To the state agency, we were just another family in the system, to be passed from desk to desk and phone to phone with no resolution in sight. Once the agency heard from an elected official, though, they were able to produce the paperwork my family needed, and they did so quickly. They say that you can’t fight city hall, but if you know how to go over their heads, even the most powerful government agencies will respond.
Therefore, it is partly out of gratitude to his wife that I have started greeting the Colonel with a friendly wave. At the same time, I am grateful to him as well. I don’t know all the details of his service, but a little internet research tells me that he spent thirty years in the army, including two tours in Vietnam. He has risked his life fighting for his country. He deserves no less than a friendly wave from a passing stranger in the morning.
The Colonel and I have never spoken to each other, and possibly we never will. We don’t even smile when we wave to each other. I know that he waves to other drivers when they wave to him first. Our greetings are part of the morning routine, part of being neighborly. I like to think, though, that they are a little more than that. I like to think that my anonymous greeting is a thank you to the Colonel and to his wife for their faithful service. J.