As you’re probably aware by now, I ride my bike often. Because summer in Florida is, how shall I say this? stinkin’ hot, I ride as early in the morning as I can get myself out of bed. And since I’m not a morning person, that’s not like 6 a.m. or anything. This morning it was closer to 8:30 because, along with being a bike rider, I’m also a baseball fanatic, and so I stay up late in the summer watching my team—the best-record-in-baseball Oakland Athletics—until way too late at night.
But I digress.
As I was riding my 11-or-so miles this morning, I was struck by the different people I encountered. I’m a friendly person, and I’m not speeding down the street on my bike, so I greet each person I meet along the way with a friendly, “Good morning!” As I do that, I notice four different kinds of people: the cautious, the clueless, the cheerful and the condemned.
Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but a large percentage of the people I encounter are not readily willing to meet my eye. They have no smile on their face, and they certainly don’t greet me first. But, I’m determined to leave no one out, so I cheerfully greet each and every person, no matter how glum they look. And you know what, my greeting almost always elicits a response, and sometimes even a smile.
In the era of earbuds and mp3 players, I encounter a lot of people who are simply in their own little world. They’re not looking around; they’re not engaging with what’s around them. I say my usual “good morning” and get no response in return. But this cluelessness doesn’t just apply to the walkers, runners or other bikers I see on the street: This morning, a big ‘ol truck completely blocked my way (I ride on the sidewalk because I value my life here in Orlando, a most unfriendly biking city) and the driver never once glanced in my direction to see that I wanted to get by.
There are those few that will give a friendly wave and greeting even before I get mine out. They seem happy and looking forward to whatever their day holds. Be they young, old or in the middle, these people are facing life with a smile.
I chose this last label not because I am condemning these people, but because they themselves seem to be condemned—by others, by the world, by their circumstances. I don’t know their stories, but I know that God loves them, and so I greet them. The dirty homeless man with the startled look on his face; the young man with the off-center hat and the the tat-covered arms; the old woman shuffling along to the bus stop. They are people, they deserve attention. They deserve love. And you know what, they almost always greet me in return. In some I see the hint of a smile, in some it may just be a polite habit that was ingrained from their childhood. But maybe, just maybe, my friendly greeting will help them know that I saw them.
They are not invisible.
They are loved.
Photo from bikeorlando.net