Most days, days without gale force winds and precipitation, I walk in the local park where there is a one-mile path. I've been doing this for nearly two years thanks to a friend who couldn't believe I would exercise on a treadmill when there was the great outdoors. It didn't take much to convince me that out was better than in, that two miles amid Nature was better than two miles with the TV. Besides, I used to walk outdoors all the time, but a spell of bad weather and a convenient treadmill had driven me indoors and indoors I had stayed. I'd changed the habit once, I could change it again.
Like any activity done with regularity, we would see the same people at the same time each day. Invariably, we'd speak, perhaps just a friendly 'good morning,' and then only the first time, whether meeting them going the other way or passing by. If someone wasn't there, we'd wonder and if they were gone several days in a row, query them about their vacation or ask after their health the next time we saw them. It didn't matter if we didn't know their name.
So it was with a woman who walked alone. Most of the time, she would already be on the path when we arrived. We knew her car, knew she was there. Sometimes, she'd run a little late, or we a little early, and we'd catch up or pass or meet. And we'd speak. She wouldn't unless spoken to first! It became a bit of a game, to say 'hello' or 'good morning' and then she'd have to answer back to be friendly.
But then, this fall, she disappeared. Was she coming later, I wondered? It couldn't be earlier because it was very dark earlier. Was she all right? Had something happened? The mystery deepened. I didn't see her or her car at Walmart or anywhere around town. Not that I had before, but if she'd changed one habit, perhaps she'd changed others. We thought her a bit older, so could she have become ill? We were worrying about someone we didn't know.
I mentioned this to the friend who had reintroduced me to outdoor walking. She had changed to a different route, one more convenient to her home. She smiled broadly: "our woman" was walking in her neighborhood now. And… best of all? She always said 'hello' first!
Guess we'd all changed a habit.