When do you say hello on the bike path?

Last week the weather turned balmy and I walked about eight miles or so on the bike path that connects the parks.  Towards dusk I even saw three deer and a possum–all within Chicago city limits. It was a perfect night, with just enough of a south wind to feel a warm summer breeze on your skin.

Everyone was out–the dogs, the baby strollers, and probably the gangs too, if you knew who they were. On one deserted stretch, I passed three really tall Hispanic guys, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old.  For some reason, they looked a bit threatening, and I didn’t say hello as I passed by.  Then I started thinking about it.  When do you say hello on a bike path? Maybe they needed to feel part of the evening, part of the neighborhood, and saying hello would be that one thing that would draw them into community and away from the negative influences of the area.  Or maybe for my own personal safety it’s better to ignore strangers.  Or maybe I’m from such a different generation that saying hello wouldn’t mean anything.

Today I was walking again and someone broke my reverie and irritated me just a bit by saying hello as we passed on the sidewalk.  I looked up and it was a young black guy.  There have been more and more blacks in the neighborhood in the last year.  As I returned his hello, I wondered what had prompted him to speak.

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