This morning on the radio I heard words spoken attributed to the poet Derek Walcott. He said, that he grew up in a place where there was “Big Gestures”, poetry was shouted, not spoken in a soft voice. And I thought of the place where I live and small gestures. A city, in the north of America, in the 21st century. Minneapolis, Minnesota and what does this place of small gestures say about its people?
It’s Monday morning and trash day. Like clock work, the trash men have emptied the can by the time I leave the house. My neighbor Fred who leaves before me, like clock work, takes his can back to his spot and then as a small gesture, takes my can back to my spot. It’s an unspoken gesture to be sure that when I get to the street before he does that I will do the same for him.
For all the times that I have been given the right of way while riding my bike through the city by car drivers who stop when they see me coming or have been waiting through a line of traffic, the gesture meter starts to rise off of small. The opportunity to wave back is my gesture of appreciation. Is a small gesture enough to sustain life forms in our society or do we need big gestures? Where I’m going with this is that gestures give us the opportunity to be grateful and our gestures in turn spread gratitude. When my order at Noodles was short the steak the clerk hurried back to the grill and soon was on my way with steak, gratis.
It’s time to volunteer again for an event we do here in the winter. The group meeting is tonight. There is a small paid staff but over 600 volunteers. Our small parts, taken collectively will produce a weekend event that draws five thousand participants and tens of thousands spectators. The whole spectacle in a way becomes a “Big Gesture” alive with people, flourish and outdoor activity. In my mind a Big Gesture is possible in a city when many small gestures take on a collective activity. It can be done when people commit to bike ride and leave their cars parked too.
I got an e-mail from another blogger in response to my question “why don’t small town people ride bikes?” I had thought that maybe a small collective of people could make a big gesture that would make living in a small town “well, big!” with life. He was not encouraging, giving me the usual excuse that it’s a cultural thing. People equate status with bike riding. And poor people or maybe a government busybody are the ones who ride bikes but surely not the mainstream folk. And I see that too when with all the technology we have around us there is a fear of bikes. A bike appears to be a simple machine but 99 percent of us don’t use one to ride to the store, school or work. The mystery of the bike has yet to be cracked. But, it’s not the Pyramids dude. One theory, it is a machine that connect ones spirit, and you don’t have to be religious, to the world you are living in and passing through. Kodo is the word I have been using for this connection of bike, rider and time as we move through a place. Kodo is the small gesture a bike rider offers to the spirit of the place.