Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What the World Needs Now...

Last week, I was walking down a bustling New York City street, lost in my own thoughts, when I heard a loud, cantankerous voice shouting in my direction.  A bit startled, I narrowed my focus and saw an older gentleman, struggling in along in a walker up the street as he approached me, and, as I did not recognize him I assumed he was either senile or had mistaken me for someone else.  He drew nearer, and I finally understood what he was struggling to yell...

"You have a lovely smile," he said. "Fantastic, dear.  It made my day."  

He reached out, took my hand to his old wrinkled lips, and kissed it as a gentleman of The Greatest Generation would.  With that, he clack-clacked along past me on his way.

This encounter started me to wonder about the ways we inadvertently affect people through our very presence and demeanor on a daily basis.  How do you project yourself when you are walking down the street, furiously messaging on your Crackberry or iPhone, unaware that others are aware?

The attitudes that we convey on a day-to-day basis are often projected to the masses, despite our ignorance.  When we ruminate on a fight with an ex, a dispute at the workplace, or even when we internalize our offence at the rudeness of being cut-off in traffic, we are often unaware of the furrowed brows and frowns we wear down the street.  

Perhaps it sounds a bit too prescriptively Pollyanna for our bustling, self-absorbed society, but smiling as you walk down the street (or, God forbid, saying "hello" to people you pass as is customary in the South), speaking kindly to people you are in line with at the grocery store, or showing gratitude to the waitstaff who are working hard while you unwind at your local restaurant can all go a long way towards making a person's day.  Try to foster an awareness of those around you.  After all, one day, God-willing, we will all be clack-clacking down the street and the smile of a stranger may be one of the last remaining rays of sunshine we have in our lives.  

Smiles are free - give and take liberally.

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