Matt Knutson: Help spread the kindness a little at a time

Published 9:36 am Friday, March 31, 2017

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.

“She has the right of way,” I told my wife as we sat at the stop sign. The old lady who arrived moments before us was waving us through the intersection for some unknown reason. It was quite clear she was there first, but perhaps out of the kindness of her heart, she felt like we should proceed first. It wasn’t a grand gesture, but I suppose we should have appreciated it a bit more. I was more annoyed than anything that she wasn’t following the fundamentals of a traffic stop. To each their own, I guess.

The season of waving has arrived. I never associated it with springtime, but everyday I’m seeing more and more people waving. That day of sunshine earlier this week really brought out the best in people. My family spent some time out on the deck and our little neighbor boy spent the majority of his outside time playing while waving at us. It started off as humorous, but when he got his mom to come outside and wave at us, I wondered what was really going on. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so maybe he wasn’t waving at me at all and called his mom for support. We’ll never know. Also gesturing positively toward us was our new backyard neighbors. I’m not sure what happened to the last elderly gentleman, but the new family seems nice. It will take some adjustment to seeing people actually using their backyard behind us, but I’m sure Beesly, our dog, will love the extra attention.

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It would seem a bit of good weather was all we needed to become better, friendlier people. I’m hopeful the waving continues well into the summer, but I’m not too optimistic. Eventually, everyone adjusts to the new temperatures and begins to complain of the heat. You don’t see too many wrists moving back and forth when the hot summer sun is high in the sky. It’s unfortunate, really, but it is what it is. I wonder how seasonal Minnesota Nice actually is for all of us. I’ll take a tally of pleasantries we receive on our next neighborhood walk and see how it stakes up to the record-breaking hellos we heard this week.

Of course it is possible that more people are waving because we have a new waver in the house. Our 1-year-old has mastered the art of flicking her wrist back and forth in an effort rarely used to say hello or goodbye, but rather as an attempt to garner attention while being adorable. As we walked the neighborhood, her hand gestured at every dog and human she saw, no matter how far in the distance they were. She also coo’d at the dogs in an effort to persuade me that she should be allowed to pet them. Maybe if she starts waving my way I’ll be more inclined.

Gracelyn’s waves are getting a bit more strategic, though. Sera shared that when she picked up our daughter from daycare today, Gracelyn actually waved goodbye to her partner in crime who was continuing to try to rearrange the cribs following Gracelyn’s departure. I also witnessed her waving for attention as two older girls at church said hello and made their way down the hall. Gracelyn quickly slid off the bench we were sitting on, waved goodbye to me, and pursued the girls who had already run out of sight. I know I should get used to these goodbye waves, but this first one stung a bit. At least she cared enough to throw her hand in the air before attempting to abandon me.

It’s likely I’m not the only one noticing all of this waving. I hope you are, too. If you’re not, there is a surefire way for it to begin: start waving at other people. You may brighten someone’s day. You may have someone look at you like you’re a little crazy. You may see someone turn around to see if there is a person behind them that you’re waving it. No matter what happens, at least you’ll know you put something good out into the world that day. There are so few ways to communicate kindness from a distance. Hopefully you’ll help spread that kindness.