Jan and I arrived at Kendal in May of 2019, about nine months before the pandemic hit. In our first few weeks here, we noticed a number of features of Kendal that we hadn’t really anticipated, but that we really liked. (Many of these are mentioned in my previous blog post “How can I decide if Kendal at Longwood is right for me?”)
One in particular that stood out was the nearly universal friendly smile and “Hello” that we got from almost every resident we passed (most of whom, of course, did not know us yet). It was a bit startling, given our observations of street manners in, say, Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, such a greeting would be cause for puzzlement (“do I know you?”), concern (“I wonder if this person is completely normal”), or suspicion (“what does this person want from me?”). Even in our home town of Media, greeting a stranger in this way would be unexpected. At Kendal, it was normal and genuine. It reminded me a bit of my experience growing up in the Midwest.
The Kendal founders designed our campus, with its covered walkways and central facilities, to discourage driving and to encourage social encounters. I imagine the greeting habits of residents evolved out of that.
The pandemic restricted (and, at times eliminated completely) the opportunities to encounter other residents in passing. Dozens of our new residents never fully experienced what we experienced when we moved in. In today’s less-restrictive environment, those sidewalk and hallway encounters are starting to become more numerous again.
Perhaps it’s time to get back into the habit of greeting people in passing again. Some new residents will be startled by it, as we were. But they’ll get used to it, and soon they will find it to be one of the really special features that set Kendal apart.