By Margaret Miller
It’s not difficult to be kind, to spread a little joy and good cheer. A smile or wave. A thumbs-up or compliment. A simple thank you. And it feels good in these pandemic weary days to be on the receiving end.
These days social media platforms make it easy to be upbeat. Some users can be drawn into the rabbit hole of complaint or insult, leaving a trail of hurt rather than good cheer. But for those who prefer not to wade about in the muck, there are ample tools at our disposal.
Smart phones and computers offer a host of amusing emojis and GIFs – those short looping videos with the potential to draw a smile. The once simple smiley face – a circle with a few well placed dots and dashes – now boasts a clan of happy, inclusive cousins for users to choose from. These days the familiar yellow face might be giggling, blowing a kiss, winking, blinking, or thinking. It might be sporting sunglasses or a bowler hat, a beard or monocle, a halo, horns, or a protective face mask.
A quick check-in from a distant relative or friend might conclude with a feel-good GIF. Tumbling puppies perhaps. Kramer sliding into Seinfeld’s apartment in his socks or a dancing Carlton Banks. For those who enjoy a quick connection or feel lost for words, what’s not to like?
I appreciate living in a valley where most people take the time to acknowledge each other. I often walk near my West Creston home and have become used to passing motorists kindly greeting me. Most lift a hand to wave; others nod as they pass. Sometimes I’m the first to raise an arm as their vehicle approaches. Thankfully, most smile and wave back, either neighbours I recognize or unfamiliar strangers.
Those who access the Wildlife Management Area and local trails know it’s good neighbourly practice to greet others sharing the great outdoors. A smile or nod, at the very least. Perhaps a friendly, “Great day, hey?” or, “Nice dog.” Maybe a helpful heads-up. “Watch for the otters at the next bend. I just got some great photos.” Or “Check out the eagle’s nest up ahead.” In Creston Valley, it’s simply bad manners to encounter another human in the big, beautiful outdoors and pass them by without so much as a friendly glance or a nod.
Crocodile Dundee, the iconic 1986 comedy and Australia’s highest grossing film, explores this concept of community and friendship. Character Mick Dundee, a likeable crocodile hunter from the outback, travels to New York with a female reporter. Away from remote landscapes where he feels at home, he’s a fish out of water, immersed in a fast-paced North American city for the first time.
Like many Crestonites, Mick feels inclined to greet those he meets or passes on the street, offering a friendly, “Gidday.” A few New Yorkers respond with warmth. Some find him an odd novelty. Most are simply too busy or disinterested to acknowledge him. In one amusing scene, Mick walks along a crowded sidewalk among hundreds of others and initially attempts to greet everyone approaching him. “Gidday. Gidday. Gidday. Gidday…”
I’m not suggesting we become Kootenay versions of enthusiastic Mr. Dundee. That would be tiresome and annoying. We need to recognise social boundaries and the desire for privacy or quiet in others. But in these tiresome and often lonely days of a lingering pandemic, simple gestures of friendship help us stay connected.
It’s happening all around us. Neighbours chatting at their community mailbox or the recycling depot. Customers thanking cashiers for their hard work. Joggers waving at each other. Kayakers on Kootenay River pausing to say hello to those strolling onshore. Locals phoning elderly neighbours. Parents thanking local teachers. Patients thanking medical staff. Readers submitting kind Warm Fuzzies to this newspaper.
Waiting for COVID to wane isn’t fun and these days we certainly see less faces and more spaces. But when we are out and about, or have access to a phone or the Internet, we can opt for simple gestures that connect us to others.
As Crocodile Dundee might have said, “Beauty Mate!”