If you talk to me for more than fifteen minutes, somewhere in our conversation, I’m going to tell at least one story about my granddaughter, Rowen. Rowen is four and because she lives in a town near us, Jeannie and I get to see her four or five times a week. Every time we see her, there’s at least one story. Rowen loves to hide her stuffed llama and then, ask you where she put it. Every time she finds Lily the Llama, it’s like the first time she’s seen her. She’ll hold up the stuffed toy in triumph and joy. She’ll hug Lily tightly and giggle with joy…and then, she’ll hide her again.
Rowen has special needs. Before her birth, she was diagnosed with Sotos Syndrome. She has a genetic deletion that affects the way she handles protein. This condition affects different people in different ways. For her, it means digestive issues, scoliosis, and some cognitive issues, especially with language.
It also means she has no understanding of personal space or social barriers. If she wants to see something, she’ll go look at it. If she wants to see what you’re doing, she’ll get between you and whatever you’re doing. She’ll take food off your plate. She’ll reach in your pocket and take your cell phone out. For Rowen, there isn’t a barrier between there and here.
And Rowen waves at everybody. Walking into her school, she’ll knock on the windows of every classroom she passes and wave at the other students. She’ll wave at everyone in the hallway and if you don’t wave back, she’ll keep waving until you do. If that doesn’t work, she’ll punch you in the leg and when you look down, she’ll wave again.
My son and daughter-in-law took a video of Rowen enjoying the Dickens Christmas Celebration in Franklin, Tennessee. The video shows Rowen walking through the crowded streets waving to people right and left as fast as she can. As far as she’s concerned, the whole town showed up to see her. In the middle of one block, Rowen saw a young lady playing the accordion. Rowen was fascinated by the sound of the instrument. Rowen would clap and clap every time the accordion expanded and contracted. Seeing Rowen, the young lady knelt and continued to play.
The young lady played a private concert for my granddaughter and Rowen clapped and laughed through every song.
As I’ve followed Rowen walking through crowds at restaurants, through the hallways of our church, even through the neighborhood, I’ve noticed Rowen never gets tired of waving and laughing. And people don’t seem to grow tired of her. Wherever we are, people see Rowen and always smile back. Some grin and gently wave back with their fingers. Others burst out laughing as if they’re surprised by the joy in the moment. Rowen seems to think everybody near her needs a wave and a laugh.
I’m beginning to think she might be right.
These last two years have been tough. COVID made everyone stay home. We couldn’t go to church, or school, or shopping, or to sporting events. The political divide has made all of us tentative in our conversations. Each of us has a long — and growing longer — list of topics we won’t bring up with our friends anymore. We don’t want to be shouted down because we were inadvertently politically incorrect about some recent issue. The result is we’re all withdrawn and sullen. We become obsessed with ourselves, monitoring every cough and sneeze. We don’t speak as much anymore. We never know if we’re talking to a Democrat or Republican, a commie leftist or far-right domestic terrorist.
So, we don’t speak. We don’t smile. We don’t laugh. We miss the joy in too many moments and our lives are much poorer for it all.
I think I’m going to do what Rowen does and wave at people more. I think I’m going to say, “Good morning” and “Good afternoon.” I think I’m going to smile more. I think Rowen’s right. I think most people need someone to wave at them. I think all of us need a good laugh.
So, I’m going to wave at people more and if they don’t wave back, I’ll just assume they haven’t met Rowen yet.