Driving home from work after my hour-long commute every day on a long, winding, country road, I passed a house where an elderly man sat on his front porch, rocking slowly in an old glider. I had been introduced to him only once when I first moved in to my home. For these past fifteen years, I have lowered my window, given my horn a tap, waved, and shouted, “Hi, Charlie.” I felt compelled to acknowledge him in this way because I could not imagine going through a day without hearing someone say my name. I felt he needed to hear his name spoken at least once, if only by me, a relative stranger.
I used to wave at his wife, too, when she was out walking their toy poodle. She was a sweet, small woman in a long, wool coat and kerchief, no matter what the season or weather. I called her my dried apple doll grandma. I didn’t know who she was, but I would slow down and say, “Hi, Grandma,” and she would smile and wave back.
But then came the day that she was not out, and Charlie was walking the dog. I knew that he was now alone, and the imperative to acknowledge him grew stronger. My window was rolled down before I came around the corner, and even if he were not on the porch, I would tap the horn and call out to him, hoping that in his aloneness he’d hear me. As long as there was a light on in the house and the blue glow from the TV screen shining out of the window, I felt that he was all right.
But the inevitable day came; Charlie’s pickup truck was for sale out on the front lawn. A few days later, a realtor’s sign was posted, and I knew that Charlie was gone.
I still honk and wave and yell, “Hi, Charlie” as I pass, albeit without as much gusto as I had in the past. The house is dark now.
It is my belief that all of us need to be acknowledged at least once a day—that we need to hear our names spoken aloud by another person to cement our place on this planet, to know that someone sees us and recognizes our humanity, the truth of our being. I feel that it is incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge each other each day, in this way to speak to that truth.