I was driving down the street one day minding my own business when I noticed this guy dressed in wild, colorful clothing, walking his dogs, and waving at every car that passed by. I thought, how strange! Although I saw what he was doing, I wasn't expecting what happened next.
When I got close to him, he looked me directly in my eyes, smiled and waved at me too. I couldn't resist but smiling and waving back at him! Oddly enough, this left me glowing on the rest of my drive to work!
This is just one example of how the SAW Movement works.
What is the SAW movement?
SAW stands for "Smile And Wave"
The SAW movement is a grass-roots movement meant to build community connection in a world where people are feeling more and more isolated.
The SAW grass-roots movement is a silly fun, and totally FREE way to improve the quality of life in your community. It takes almost no effort to positively impact your community and the people around you in a major way.
A new survey finds that nearly 1/4 adults reports feeling lonely.
Imagine you are feeling totally invisible and that no one cares about you. You're driving down the road, depressed, and thinking about how you could disappear and no one would know or care.
As you are driving, you see someone walking down the street waving at everyone like some kind of strange cartoon character - when you go to pass them, they look directly at you, they are smiling, and intentionally waving at you, not someone next to you, but you specifically.
Finally, someone noticed you.
I'm not saying this would be enough to curb someone's depression, but it may be the first, and possibly the only positive interaction that person may have all day.
Now imagine that they see you doing this every day while they are on their way to work. You would start to build a connection with them, even if only in passing - You never know how much that simple interaction could mean to someone.
As the as the person who is smiling and waving at people, you would begin to recognize the people in your community, who is regularly driving there, and who you never see.
In a busy city, it's easy to believe that no one is watching you, providing a sense that you can get away with anything. However, if someone looks directly at you and waves, you realize that people do see you, potentially making you feel less comfortable proceeding with whatever nefarious activity you had in mind.
In this way, you have just made your community a little safer.
Gradually, you're building a sense of belonging and reducing social isolation for people in your community.
In doing so, you also foster a more positive and friendly atmosphere and atmosphere can can mean everything.
The atmosphere of a concert or bar makes you feel one way, while the atmosphere of a church will make you feel another.
If you change the atmosphere of your community, you change the way people feel in your community.
As you participate in the SAW movement, you begin to develop silly relationships of sorts with the people driving in your community. You see people who really look foreword to waving at you, and even get excited to wave at you!
If you go to walk around your neighborhood and you forget to wave at people, you will look at the cars passing and inevitably you will see someone waving at you without you waving at them at all!
That is exactly what happened to me!
I started this project December 26th, 2021. I was walking my dogs in my neighborhood and I thought to myself, "What kind of things make up a tightknit community like you see in small towns?" - "Small towns feel safe and homely; friendly - like a giant extended family."
The first thing that came to mind was that in small towns, everyone waves and greets each other.
I thought, there is something to that!
In a small town, people seem to know everyone by name. In a large town, there is too many people to know everyone by name, but that does not mean you can't still smile and wave at everyone you see; to greet everyone the same way you would expect to in a small town.
I believed that by doing that simple action, we would start giving off that small town vibe, and people would begin to feel closer to each other.
As I walked, I began waving at all the cars passing by, but not just at the cars, I would look at the people in the cars and wave at them directly, and try to make eye contact even. If someone didn't look at me, that was ok, I would just start waving at the next car!
At first this felt strange and uncomfortable.
In larger cities, it is not in our usual behavior to interact with everyone.
Most of us walk with our head down and our earbuds in so that no one will try to approach us.
We don't want to be in anyone's business, and we don't want anyone in ours.
I will admit, I am not quite that anti-social, but it was still strange for me to try and interact with people who I have never met, and probably will never meet directly.
It took a little getting used to, but when I started looking at everyone as distant relatives I never get to see, the whole thing changed!
I started giving people names, looking at a car and thinking, hey aunt Kathy! or What's up uncle Dave?!
Immediately it became more fun, and I couldn't help but giggle! Not everyone I waved at was thrilled to be noticed like that, and many people didn't wave back at all.
Some people intentionally avoided looking at me altogether.
I didn't let that stop me, I would think, awe, poor cousin Frank is never in a good mood; I hope he gets to feeling better!
Then I just kept on smiling and waving at the next one!
Cut to today - I've been doing this every time I walk my dogs for over 2 years now. This has become second nature to me, Out of instinct, every time a car passes I wave at them.
When I started, very few people waved back at me, now very few people don't wave at me.
If I forget to wave at someone, ill look and most of the time someone in the sting of cars is waving at me with way more energy and enthusiasm as I have ever had!
I have been stopped on multiple occasions by people who say that they love what im doing - That is means a lot to them, and that they look foreword to seeing me when they are out driving.
I had a school teacher stop and tell me how her husband saw me and told her, "I think I have found the male equivalent of you. I drove past this guy walking his dogs dressed like a box of crayons, acting like a goofball waving at everyone. It seems like he is trying to brighten peoples days just like you do."
She said, "Hey, I've seen that guy! I'm going to stop and say hi the next time I see him!"
Come to find out, she was responsible for making these signs with positive messages on them and putting them in an old cooler in front of her house for people to take and place in their yards.
Her signs say things like: "The world needs you to shine your light." or "I know its hard right now but we will get through it!"
She explained how she started doing this during 2020 because of everything that happened.
I love seeing her signs! I read every one that I come across, and I'm always surprised to see just how far these signs make it! I have seen these same signs in peoples yards miles away from each other!
We talked back and forth for a few minutes about how important these kind of community building projects are and the positive impact that they are having on us!
Every time I see her driving past in her van, we wave extra hard at each other, as if to say, "Keep it up! I love what you're doing! Shine on!"
I have also had a group of young guys driving in circles around me, eventually stopping to tell me about how they love the positive vibes and asking if they could take a picture with me. It made me feel like a superhero with how excited they were about it!
Another time I had a guy stop me and tell me that he looks foreword to seeing me walking when he is driving home from work. When he is feeling down it always seems to put a smile on his face.
You don't have to just wave at the cars passing either!
In the community where I live, there is not a lot of foot traffic, but I have done this same thing in places like Los Angales, California, and Northeast Kansas city where there are plenty of people walking around!
When you smile and wave at people you pass on the street, you can have even more of a positive impact!
Talking to strangers can not only make you happier, it can even make you smarter!
Most of the time I am walking my dogs when I'm doing this, and some people don't feel very comfortable being around large dogs like the ones I walk, so I simply smile, wave, say Hi and keep it moving.
Some people really love my big harry lovers though which makes for even more fun!
I have had lots of people stop to pet the pups and we will chat for a few minutes about how beautiful, or how terrible the weather is, how goofy the pups are as they wine for attention!
Many people talk about how they live for interactions like this! Saying things like, "People are so distant these days, it's hard to build relationships with people." or "It's nice to feel like were all part of a community and not stuck in our own bubble."
I have also had interactions with homeless people and learned so much about their situation. Many of them are incredibly polite and down to earth. Its incredible to see just how little it can take to end up in a situation like that!
When you smile and wave at people, you open the door to magic.
I know when I am in a bad mood, forcing a smile on my face and waving at people can be hard but eventually, I cant help but be in a much better mood.
Most of the time ill forget what I was upset about!
When I see someone that is not happy when I wave at them, I think, they must need this more than anyone. That motivates me to wave at everyone who looks like someone just ate their last cookie!
I know this is silly, and seemingly meaningless, but I honestly believe that a simple project like this can have a lasting impact on our community.
Please join me in building community through this SAW movement, and share your stories with each other!
It is easy to do and takes nothing to get started!
The next time you are out walking your dogs, or going for a jog, just start waving at the people you come across.
You will be surprised at just how much fun you have, and how this simple interaction can have a positive rippling effect for the people around you.
Wear silly or colorful clothing for an added effect!
When we begin to build relationships with the people we pass in these large cities, these large cities get just a little bit smaller.
That is what the SAW movement is all about; building grass-roots community connections making our community stronger and more resilient.
Just like the school teacher I met in my neighborhood, there are many ways of showing love for your community!
The SAW movement isn't the only way to help. You can create your own project to help improve your community!
Your creative approach to building community could inspire others to do the same!
In an atmosphere where people are trying to divide us based on any number of personal or political beliefs, we need to know that we have more in common than the beliefs that separate us.
We all want what is best for everyone. We all care about our community. We all want to ease suffering if we can.
We can help do all of that when we SAW together every day.