Coming home from an oncology appointment one day, we were driving down the busy main street of our town and I noticed a man walking by the road. He kept a good pace and carried his head high. He was tall and slender with a shiny bald head, but the first thing I noticed about him was his smile. He bore a gigantic grin, one reminiscent of Alice’s Cheshire cat, and he waved to us as we drove past. My return wave was a reflex. I looked at my hand and could feel a smile pulling up the corners of my mouth. Here I was waving at this strange man who was obviously a crackpot. And I’m sure that I, waving and smiling with my shiny bald chemo head, looked like a bit of a crackpot, too.
The weeks went by, and after each appointment or long day of chemo, I looked for “Happy Waving Guy” (as I affectionately named him). And I almost always saw him. I began to wonder who this man was and if he spent his days walking back and forth down the road cheering up the passersby. You see, it wasn’t just me he waved at. It was EVERYONE. Every car that passed along the busy road would get a smile and a wave. And, to my surprise, it wasn’t just me who returned the wave. It appeared that most everyone returned his wave or honked their horn or did something of that sort.
It came to be that I expected to see him after a crappy day at the Cancer Center or the hospital. I expected his smile and happy wave to give me a little lift. So one day when I was terribly sick and felt like I couldn’t make it through one more treatment, we pulled into the parking lot “Happy Waving Guy” was walking by and I shouted to him. I remember thinking, “Who’s the nutcase now?” But I didn’t care. I wanted to meet this man and to thank him.
He was so pleased that we stopped and that I was grateful for what he was doing. He was out there every day, walking and waving and smiling, and trying to bring a bit of happiness to everyone who passed. He wasn’t crazy, he wasn’t a crackpot. He was a humanitarian. He said that not everyone was as fond of his activity, but that the people who were made it worthwhile.
It has been 2 years now since I first met “Happy Waving Guy” a.k.a. Bill. He continues to elicit smiles from many of the people who drive by him on his daily walks. We keep in touch via email and he has shared a copy of his book with me and has even invited us into his home.
I believe it was one of my kids — they don’t hold anything back! — who asked him if he was always happy. While I don’t recall his words exactly, his response went something to the tune of ‘if you act like you are happy, you may just get there’. I know I’m paraphrasing and I may have it all wrong, but there is a lesson in there. If you exude positive energy, some of it is bound to stick — or to come back to you, at least.
I try my best to live by this philosophy and recently read the post of another cancer patient who is trying to do the same, so I know I’m not alone in my desire to be happy despite the pitfalls of life on this slippery slope. As I await the results of the MRI I just had, I am trying to be positive and have vowed to continue to do my best to see the joy in each day, come what may. Of course having a positive attitude doesn’t always help or work, and some days I think the theory is a load of crap. But most days I think it is certainly worth it to try. At the very least, it doesn’t usually make things worse — and some days that’s good enough!