Amblin' Alameda: Greetings!

Amblin' Alameda: Greetings!

Morton Chalfy

When I started out on my walk Saturday morning, I was immediately struck by the fineness of the atmosphere. The air was unusually clean after the day of smoke we had Friday, and there was the faintest hint of warmth carried on the breeze. As I marched along, conscious of working the kinks out of my back and legs, I was also conscious of the clarity of the atmosphere and the special feel of fall in the Bay Area; the beauty of Indian Summer and the promise of good weather for months.

With the bay in sight I was swinging along when, coming towards me was a large, late middle aged African American man. He looked at me for a second, broke into a huge grin and said, “Nice morning, isn't it?”

My face lit up with pleasure as I enthusiastically agreed and then, quoting Charles Schulz' "Peanuts" he said, “It's a great life, Charlie Brown.”

All I could say to that was “Amen, brother.”

The encounter so lifted my spirits that I kept a smile on my face for quite a while and when I reached the next corner, where a middle-aged lady was walking her middle-aged dog I said, “Good morning,” and she said, “Lovely, isn't it?” and I said, “Gorgeous.” in my most heartfelt tones.

Ordinarily we all walk along with closed faces, wary of any encounter, but the openness of the first gentleman's greeting was so infectious that I felt obliged to keep passing it on. Saturday's population on Shoreline Drive includes many more earnest walkers, many joggers and a few dedicated runners, and I shared my good feeling with them all by smiling and/or greeting them when they looked into my face.

How easily our spirits are lifted by an encounter with a smiling face. Usually when we see a person, alone, smiling at seemingly nothing apparent, we become wary and wonder about their mental balance. But when a smile is directed specifically toward us, it has the power to change the atmospherics.

I often think that schools should have classes, from kindergarten through seniors in high school, in how to be happy. How to appreciate the wonder of this world, how to be yourself, how not to make yourself miserable and how to enjoy life. We all need to be instructed and the need doesn't disappear with age. Children need to be taught these things which arguably are more important even then the three R's for getting through life with some joy and appreciation.

“Ain't life grand and ain't this day lovely” can do more to raise the spirits of those around you than any comparable dose of almost anything. “I love you” might be the exception that proves the rule.