Most days during the week I take my lunch break and go for a run on the trails behind where I work. There all different kinds of folks who frequent this trail.
Runners, walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, dog walkers. The old, the young, the mom with her baby in the stroller. There’s quite the spectrum of people that you come across.
I’ve noticed there is no set etiquette for greeting or acknowledging people as you pass by or go around or cross each other’s paths. Sometimes there’s a nod, sometimes there’s a slight half wave, sometimes there’s nothing.
Then there’s the guy on the bike with the bell and the smile. He exists outside of the rules and etiquette and what’s proper or allowable and acceptable.
The guy on the bike with the bell and the smile. He’s a regular on the trail. He’s no poser or visitor or foreigner. He’s out there on a weekly basis in the heat and humidity getting it done.
The guy on the bike with the bell and the smile is an older gentleman, maybe late 70’s, who rolls hard on his beach cruiser along the trail.
His helmet seems to be a bit bulky and sits slightly askew atop his head. He keeps it real with a tiny mirror attached to his helmet so that he can see who’s coming up behind him.
What makes the guy on the bike with the bell and the smile stand out to me is not his age or his bike or his hat or his mirror. What makes him stand out to me is his greeting.
The way he greets and acknowledges people he passes along the trail is incredible. It’s so incredible it caught me off guard the first time it happened. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it the first time.
But now that I consider us buddies even though he has no idea who I am, I look forward to coming across him on the trail.
So what makes it special?
Well to start with his whole presence is disarming. From the bike to the askew helmet it the tiny mirror. There’s nothing to cause alarm or concern with his being.
Then when you get within range he begins to ring his bell that’s attached to the left side of his handlebars with his left thumb.
At the same time he begins to ring his bell he begins to look intently at you with a great big smile.
On top of ringing the bell and trying to make eye contact with you and smile at you, he takes his right hand and reaches over his left arm to wave vigorously towards you.
You can’t mistake what he’s doing.
There’s no questioning, did that guy ring, smile, and wave at me?
Yes, he did, and there’s no way to miss it.
Although it startled me the first time I’ve grown to love it.
And now it doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, if I come across the guy on the bike with a bell and smile, my day gets better. Regardless of what’s going on in his head or what’s his reasoning, there is a powerful message that is spoken through his simple action.
That you, a stranger, have value.
That you, just by being, matter.
Is there a stronger, more powerful message than that?
In this place where you’re lucky to get a nod this guy on the bike with a bell and smile is sending people a message.
And his message is…..
ring ring – I see you.
ring ring – I acknowledge that you exist and think you matter.
ring ring – I’m happy about you, I’m glad I see you, and I want you to know that.
It’s this super simple thing but it’s such a powerful moment.
When I pass that guy, I want to know more. What’s going on with this dude? What’s driving him? How did he gain this perspective? He’s drawn me in by how he’s living.
I want to know more about this dude, in fact, I want to be more like this dude. He created a desire in me to be better. He didn’t have to have some sort of complicated argument thereby proving how his view and stance and understanding of life was better.
Just in his commitment to treating people in this particular way he’s shown me there’s better. And not only has he shown me better he’s also nourished my being by doing so.
When it comes to changing the world so many people are looking for big, dramatic, and drastic events and measures but the truth is changing the world for the good happens incrementally.
One person doing one small thing one day at a time.
We would do well as a collective humanity to take a few lessons from the guy on the bike with the bell and the smile.