By David LaBelle
The richness of life isn’t measured by a few big events, but by the thousands of small, seemingly insignificant moments woven together to make a lifetime.
Last summer as my family passed through Camden, Maine, we saw a man sitting by the side of the highway in a wheelchair, waving at all who passed. He looked so content, so full of purpose; we had to stop and talk to him.
As it turns out, 85-year-old Kert Ingraham had found a small, but new, purpose in life – to wave at passing strangers.
One day the resident of Sixty-Three Washington Street’s home for seniors rolled his wheelchair down the long driveway for a smoke break near the busy highway. “I went out there to the street because we can’t smoke on the property,” explained the Air Force veteran.
Then a funny thing happened and a new habit was formed.
“I waved at somebody and then another, and ended up enjoying it,” offered Ingraham.
Three years later, he’s still waving at all who pass and, the former funeral home owner from Bangor has become somewhat of a fixture along busy Washington Street in Camden.
Ingraham, whose wife died 14 years earlier, says the weather determines how long he sits out by the highway smoking and waving. “Sometimes I stay out there quite a while.”
He sees his regulars pass, one mailman in particular.
“Donald, I don’t know his last name,” Ingraham confessed. “He and I are buddies. We shake hands three times a day.”
Watching this man content with his life, I am once again reminded that each of us need purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. Oftentimes meaning and joy can come in simple packages –like waving at strangers.
Yes, it’s the simple things, the free things, that make life so interesting and so beautiful.
All photos © David LaBelle