Because my parents are 81, we built a half-house onto their home in a retirement community in west Phoenix, and I moved in to be there, just in case. I am barely old enough to be a legal resident, and my work colleagues wonder how it is, living in a city of golf carts and yard sales over-flowing with arts and crafts.
I tell them it is a place where we say “Good morning,” and mean it. This simple act, repeated daily over and over in the year that I’ve lived there, has become a ritual of hope, an antidote to the intolerance, the rush to judgment, and the craving for decisive action — any action — that seems pervasive in Arizona’s public sphere. Here in the desert, my neighborhood is crowded with walkers at 5 a.m. year-round but because our streets are a tangle of intersecting circles, we come upon each other suddenly as we turn a bend in the road. When we see a compadre, we call out our appreciation of the new morning, each echoing our delight in sharing this perfect today. Age does that. “Good morning” gains significance.
I believe that “Good morning” can become a communal prayer of gratitude, a responsive calling out across the neighborhood congregation, witness to the whole miracle that we are here at all. In my neighborhood, we all know we are close to death. I learned it 8 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. After treatment, I took a hairpin turn, leaving my Silicon Valley career to return to school. These days, I am part of a research team at the Arizona Cancer Center. But a year ago when I moved in, I had forgotten my cancer-inspired resolutions and I was taking it all for granted.
Then last spring, I visited Thailand. In the LA airport, a friend taught me that in Thailand, the greeting is “Sawasdee Ka,” which she translated as, “The divine in me recognizes and honors the divine in you.” She taught me to accompany this melodious quartet of notes with a slight bow, hands together, ending heart-high. Sherry suggested I practice but because I was embarrassed to be bowing in LAX, I did it all hastily, like the way I call out, “Hey-how-are-you?” as I pass someone at work. I caught myself in a waiting-area window reflection, and saw myself bowing the way a horse throws his head. But once we arrived, I caught on and as I bowed, I began thinking, “The divine in me says ‘Good Morning’ to the divine in you. Here we are, in this together. What a hoot, huh? Can I help?”
Maybe I am the only one who believes that saying “Good Morning” can rekindle one’s sense of responsibility to practice husbandry toward the neighborhood, toward the civic community, toward each other. But I invite others to try. We need to start somewhere, and we might as well start with the sunrise.
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