The Wave, The Nod and The Finger!

Before you get too excited, let me explain. It’s all about communication, and how we express our thoughts and feelings. Something as simple as a wave can mean so many different things. In a parade, a wave can be very formal and done in the ‘beauty queen’ style. Other waves of the hand can be meant to move on over or to let someone know it’s safe to cross a road. A simple wave is one of the first things we teach our children – to wave ‘bye bye.’ And, boy, doesn’t everyone get excited at that chubby-fisted motion?

The wave that was most unfamiliar to me was when we moved to Virginia. As cars passed each other on the road, I was intrigued to see that people waved at everyone. I wondered, “Does everyone know everybody that they pass on the road?” That didn’t really seem possible. For weeks, I let my husband do the waving as we passed cars. It didn’t take him long to be able to tell me who at least half of the people were who he was waving to. I soon learned that the casual toss of the hand, a wave of sorts, was just the normal way of life in the south. You weren’t expected to know everyone, but it was just ‘normal’ to wave at anyone you passed in a car or on the street. Simply friendly.

For months, I was a bit awkward at this new form of communication, but I tried my best to remember to wave as I passed people on the road. Soon, I faced a new dilemma. The ‘chain gang’ was working on our road - in orange coveralls and all. "Do I wave?" "What was protocol in this situation?" "Do I even look at the workers standing right next to my car as I was stopped at the stop sign." "Do I wave at the guard holding the rifle, or do I just stare straight ahead." "Was this really a safe practice?" After all, I have two children under 2 years old in my car. Oh my! It might just be easier to stay home. 

Then, there was another predicament. What do you do when you pass someone but your hands are occupied – either on the steering wheel, taking a sip of drink or trying to pass a toy or pacifier to the back seat to your crying child. Do you get a “pass” in those circumstances? Or, are you considered rude? 

I soon realized the best solution to this dilemma is the nod. Yep, a simple nod of the head. Just a slight up tilt. An acceptable form of greeting. A quiet acknowledgement. A kind hello. Whew! I was catching on to this new system, and I was thankful.

That brings us to The Finger! Yes, my girls often told their friends that they hated when their mother gave them The Finger. Ugh! How embarrassing - especially when their friends knew I was a pastor’s wife and claimed to be a Christian. 

Can I explain?

The Finger was not the “flip the bird” kind of finger, rather it was my pointer finger. Yep, just my pointer finger standing straight up to signify that I had had enough. The seemingly innocent finger when pointed upward in the car meant that silence needed to happen – immediately. Why? Well, either the noise level, bickering or whining had escalated to a point beyond my ability to remedy while driving. When the girls saw my pointer finger raised in close proximity to their faces, they knew they were in deep trouble. No words were spoken in the front seat or the back until we got home. All was quiet. The finger had spoken!

Developing positive non-verbal communication skills are becoming more rare in this generation. Even with emojis, of all varieties, the wrong message can easily be heard if we’re not careful as we text, post comments and compose emails. It is extremely easy to misinterpret (or misread) a comment when we scroll and skim through dozens of messages daily – or hourly! I even know of one couple that banned texting between the two of them as their responses to each other began creating real issues in their relationship. Their daily communication became less frequent, but they found that speaking to one another - by phone or face to face - was much healthier and encouraging for each of them.

Healthy communication has always been a challenge - no matter what the mode or method. Proverbs 21:23 says ‘Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.’ In this generation, we could modify that proverb to say ‘Those who guard their tongues and their texting keep themselves from catastrophe.’ Whatever communication challenges you or your family may face, it is crucial that we commit to finding creative ways to be wise with our words so that we are people of encouragement and blessing.

To protect my kids, and myself, from harsh words and mounting anger, my non-verbal finger pointing did the trick. That simple gesture made an impact on all three of my girls, and they still speak about it to this day. I’m so glad I gave them 'The Finger' even though out of context that phrasing is always quite embarrassing!  

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