A couple of times a week I drive past the Liberty Tax services office near my house. I always feel amused by the young person stationed on the corner, dressed in a poor impression of the Statue of Liberty, dancing as if they are in the middle of their own private Soul Train.
I can’t imagine working that job. Sure, a paycheck is a paycheck, but my personality just doesn’t fit the job requirements. In fact, I imagine it takes a very special person to stand out in public, dressed in ridiculous garb, and wave at people all day long.
For the longest time, I felt embarrassed for the kid, projecting my own feelings onto their experience. Why, though, does it have to be embarrassing? Should dancing in public, in full view of thousands of people a day spur thoughts of inadequacy? Most of the people working the corner don’t display the best dance skills, but does it matter what anyone else thinks? I have written many times that it isn’t any of our business what others think of us. So, why should anyone feel uncomfortable selling tax services by dancing on the corner?
Honestly, I felt embarrassed for myself. No matter which Liberty Tax service I passed, the dancing statue always waves at everyone. I refused to wave back. Deep down, I felt that if I acknowledged their presence through my return wave, I would encourage their ridiculous behavior. By not waving, I ignored the potential discomfort felt were I dressed in a frumpy, green dress, jamming to the latest top 40 hits.
How dumb is that?
Recently, I decided to change my own ridiculous behavior. I now wave at the Liberty Tax Service dancers, wherever I find them. The first time I waved was spontaneous. As I approached the corner, I noticed the kid throwing down some awkward moves. Traffic was slow, so I watched for a long time from the corner of my eye. Of course, as I passed, he waved at me, and although I looked away and didn’t make eye contact, my right hand raised into the air and waved back.
Immediately, I giggled. I know part of my reaction stemmed from the amazement that I had actually acknowledged his presence. I just couldn’t contain my mirth that I had actually waved back, and accidentally, no less. I also giggled at the face Lady Liberty made, a combination of both surprise and joy I can only assume derived from my wave. Is it possible that through the simple action of a wave, I validated someone’s existence?
Since that day, I have made sure to wave every time I pass. I get the same reaction every time, though the dancers vary. They wave, I wave, then I giggle at the silliness of the whole episode. But, silliness is ok.
The one random wave that broke my pattern exposed a profound truth about my actions - the only reason I had to be embarrassed rested in my own inability to participate in something as simple as acknowledging another human being. My experience also opened my eyes to the majority of the people around me. If my waves could engender reactions of surprise, how infrequently do other people wave back? I don’t think I have been alone in my reluctance.
There is no reason not to wave back in a situation like that. No one needs to feel embarrassed for the Liberty Tax Service dancers. In fact, the only embarrassment any of us should feel originates from our unwillingness to pick up our hand and wave back. How hard is it, really?