I remember the very first time someone winked at me like it was yesterday. I was much (much) younger, in a very different place (mentally and physically), no idea of the bright future that was yet to come. It was late on a Saturday night, I was at a discotheque with my friends, and there it was: that little twinkle in the bouncer’s eyes. Now, before you think it was something that it wasn’t, I knew the bouncer from before, I’d almost go as far as to say that at this point in my life we were good friends (not sure what that says about me), but I couldn’t get that wink out of my head.
It is such a tiny, innocent thing, really, it’s closing one eyelid while making eye contact with someone with the other eye. Examined in isolation, there is really nothing to a wink, other than a strategic movement of an eyelid. And yet, there is so much more to it.
Fast forward an odd number of years: Ever since I moved to Ireland, which has only been a few months, I’ve been winked at more often than in the previous 30 years. It’s interesting really, and the more often I’m being winked at, the more often I find myself winking at people. Again, don’t make it something it is not. I had a lot of time to think about these eyelid movements especially when meetings go off-topic, while organizing this, that, and the other – but mostly when I sit in traffic and think about the day.
On that note, am I the only one that actually enjoys sitting in traffic? I mean, is there really anything better than listening to Chris Rea’s ‘Driving home for Christmas’ while inching forward on the motorway? I know that this could sound really ironic, but it’s not, that’s my favorite part of the day (again, that says a lot about me, doesn’t it?). And while I sit there, seeing the sea of breaking lights in front of me go on and off again, I find myself thinking about winks…
I don’t think about the people that winks at me, but rather what that wink actually means, what it says at that very moment. It’s such an interesting custom. From my (very green) perspective of Ireland, winking is a way of showing acceptance, a way of showing that you’re part of a team, a way of making sure you feel included. But then there is something to be said about who is winking at whom, because I don’t think men wink at each other or perhaps they do? I don’t know if women ever wink at each other – or at all -, but then again, maybe they do? I also reflected over who I am winking at, and why I’d do it in one moment but maybe not in the next… But I suppose winking in Ireland is kind of like nodding at each other, smiling, a hand-shake, a high-five… Customs and cultures are so different, so fascinating and so incredibly important.
Here is the Irish-winking conclusion I’ve come to: Winking is a way of saying ‘hello’, or saying ‘everything is good’, or ‘everything will be fine’ or ‘I got your back’. There is so much to one single wink, much more than we’d ever think about, really. And that’s really my point elaborating on ‘Irish winking customs’. Too often we forget to include, forget to make sure that the people around us are well taken care of. We forget that we are all sometimes just trying to get by, we forget that people may feel excluded, and lonely, and forgotten. We forget that a single act of kindness may have a big effect on people.
I know that winking may not be the best way forward – understanding, that winking in other cultures may mean something very different than what I identified it as – but find a way to make sure that people around you are well. Include the ones around you, make sure that they are seen, make sure that they are heard, make sure that you show them that you care about them. We are moving into the holiday season (or rather we’re already halfway there), but in these times, it can be very difficult for many, most of them just a wink away from you. So, today, and any other day moving forward, look around you and discover the people around you, one wink at a time… And again, don’t make it something it is not… It’s a small gesture of kindness, be kind, be good and find your way of saying ‘hello’, ‘everything is good’, ‘everything will be fine’, and ‘I got your back’.