independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Please, can't you crane your neck to say hello?

Public garden in Warsaw, Poland
Public garden in Warsaw, Poland

Last summer, one Saturday morning, I was out for a long run. It was a gloriously warm July day, with the sun already high by 8am. As I turned for home – with the Royal Canal as my guide – I couldn't have been happier. By that early hour I had been gifted visions of rich beauty: sunrise, swans, locks, hedgerows and many examples of Irish wildlife: cows, horses, ducks, swans and even a fox. Rather unusually, for about an hour, I also had the company of a crane.

It is a rarely sighted bird, with distinctively long legs and neck. For about eight miles, he repeatedly took off and went ahead of me. Continually, he would rest on the canal bank while he waited for me to catch up. By 8am we both realised we were an hour away from where we had first met. I turned for home and, amazingly, so did he.

As the reverse horizon came into view, I saw a fellow runner appear in the distance. Great, I thought. A brief interaction with somebody who shared a common interest.

Whenever I pass a fellow runner, walker or cyclist, I always try to acknowledge them either by bidding them 'hi' or 'good morning' or at worst – if I am tired – a simple thumbs up to acknowledge their passing. Now if I was running down O'Connell St, I mightn't expect a return acknowledgement but, on this occasion, we were in the middle of nowhere. There was nobody else around and nothing to distract us from communicating.

As we passed, I tried to make eye contact. It wasn't that he didn't see me. We were less than two feet apart. He saw me all right and as his eyes locked onto mine, I bid him a hearty 'good morning'. His response? To look down at the ground and ignore me. I was stunned. I began to make excuses for his action, or rather inaction. Perhaps he had nothing left to give. Maybe he was in the zone.

Unfortunately, this is the norm. I have been snubbed countless times by a fellow runner or cyclist. Are some of us so immersed in our own world that we cannot gift a simple word of acknowledgement to another person who is out there equally asking more of themselves? Isn't a brief word or simple gesture a gift to the other person? Don't we like it when somebody greets us? Throw in a smile, and you have instant rapport.

A month ago, I was asked to retweet the following message: "Any chance of tweeting to wave, smile even just nod to another runner as they pass by". After clicking 'send', the reaction from people who latched onto this petition was enough to convince me to write on the subject. The tweet highlighted a wound we can all help to heal. It only takes a 'hi' or a thumbs up. Nothing more. It cements a shared interest and can give a boost of energy to those of us who might need it. I am always immensely appreciative of it. By the way, it works when you walk down the street as well.

The crane continued his non-verbal interaction for another hour, before disappearing from whence he came.

I was grateful for his company.

Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete. www.gerryduffyonline.com

Irish Independent

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