Last night I was driving home after a long day of travel, and a cab driver pulled his car across my path to turn it around on a rainy street. My first instinct was annoyance; I may even have begun to mutter at him under my breath. All of a sudden I saw the passenger, a rakish looking man in a toque who looked directly into my face and flashed me – a peace sign.
Wow! Where I would have expected a rude finger-raised gesture, he gave me a friendly gesture of peace. His action made me smile. My annoyance evaporated. I could hear my teenagers saying, “Peace out.”
This got me thinking about gestures and their place in our interactions. It doesn’t take much effort to gesture – not nearly as much confidence or energy as actually striking up a conversation. You don’t have to be clever or articulate. It takes a moment.
Your gesture can devastate or elevate a person’s day. Think of all the positive gestures available to us: waving (everything from small waves to standing up in a stadium as part of the big wave), thumbs-up, high five, nodding, smiling, beckoning someone in front of you in line (this has great positive impact when applied to drivers needing a break in traffic), opening a door, holding the elevator, grimacing in sympathy when things are hectic at the counter.
In Korea it is common practice to bow when you greet someone, and again when you leave. Gestures affect those they are directed at, and they affect those who do them. I find bowing respectful and honouring, whichever end I am on. When I pray I sometimes fold my hands together like a small child, out of respect and awe for the Lord.
Gesturing is a way of connecting with people around you. It transcends language barriers. A gesture from you can open a door to additional service – giving directions to someone who is lost, sharing an umbrella or a dollar, or lending an ear to someone who just needs to tell their story to another human being.