The greatest crime of all


2:30 am.
The mind is buzzing.
Thoughts zipping around like skeeter bugs on the surface of a still pond.
Most leaving faint ripples in their wake.
Work. Weight. Weekend. Work. Work. Work.

But One lingers. And has lingered since yesterday morning.

I’m pulling out of the gas station.
The morning traffic is blocking the exit.
Nine cars pass.
I’m counting.
A pick-up finally stops.
I can see the outline of his face.
He’s not smiling.
He doesn’t wave me in.
He just stops.
And waits.

One small gesture.

And it stuck.

And that small gesture…

Led the mind to leapfrog to The greatest crime of all

“I couldn’t keep myself from thinking everything in New York was superior to every other place I’d ever been, which hadn’t been all that many places. I was stunned by New York. Its grand parks and museums. Its cozy cobbled streets and dazzlingly bright thoroughfares. Its alternately efficient and appalling subway system. Its endlessly gorgeous women clad in slim pants and killer shoes and interesting coats.

And yet something happened on my way to falling head over heels in love with the place. Maybe it was the man getting stabbed that no one worried about. Or maybe it was bigger than that. The abruptness, the gruffness, the avoid-eye-contact indifference of the crowded subways and streets felt as foreign to me as Japan or Cameroon, as alien to me as Mars. Even the couple who owned the bodega below our apartment greeted my husband and me each day as if we were complete strangers, which is to say they didn’t greet us at all, no matter how many times we came in to buy toilet paper or soup, cat food or pasta. They merely took our money and returned our change with gestures so automatic and faces so expressionless they might as well have been robots. …

This tiny thing … grew to feel like the greatest New York City crime of all, to be denied the universal silent acknowledgment of familiarity, the faintest smile, the hint of a nod.”

~ Cheryl “Sugar” Strayed 

   Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Credits: Image. Quote: Brainpickings


  1. Maybe this is why people think we in the Midwest are so “friendly.” Hugh Jackman remarked on it when he was here for a renovated theater’s reopening. So much so that he and his wife thought of buying a house here. We don’t feel any differently than the folks in New York. We just look people in the eye a bit more.


  2. The smallest sign that affirms that we are here, we are seen.


  3. So glad you experienced a rare show of courtesy, even if it was without a smile. Have a great weekend. 🙂


  4. As a Midwesterner from a tiny rural farming community, I was brought up knowing pretty much *everyone* around me, which can be comforting and, at times, stifling. But it made me keenly aware of the importance of acknowledgement and connection, if only for the briefest moment…..


  5. It reminds me of riding Bart in the Bay Area. Pretty much everyone on Bart sits or stands there expressionless…almost as if they are afraid that smiling will make them more vulnerable…and no one wants to become vulnerable in the midst of the maddening crowd. Anyway, yes, “the greatest crime of all.”


  6. Love that book by Cheryl Strayed!


  7. It’s why I love loving in a small town.


  8. YIKES! I meant love LIVING in a small town. What will people think now? OMG.


  9. I like to surprise people with hellos & smiles. Love their expressions in return. 🙂


  10. We moved from San Antonio, Tx to Washington, DC years ago. We stayed in an interim apartment until our permanent one was ready in another part of town. The first evening as I walked down the hall to empty a trash can, I passed a woman in the hall and looked at her to say hello; she averted her eyes looking at the wall to one side of her to keep from looking at me. I didn’t know what to make of that, the first time I encountered such coldness from a stranger…not how it was in San Antonio. It took me awhile to understand this.


  11. Is it that people are afraid to be seen or afraid to see?


  12. yes, human to human contact. we all need to feel our presence has some meaning in this world, and a response to us from another person, no matter how small, reaffirms this for us in such a huge way.


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