I remember when my son was starting Grade 4 at a brand-new school. He went through four different IQ tests in Grade 3 which identified him in the top 2%. Our regional school board supported a Gifted Program and provided bussing to transport these exceptional students to a satellite school in our town. My son was both excited for and nervous of this new adventure, and naturally worried about making friends.
“What if I don’t know anybody?” he asked.
“Everybody will be in the same boat!” I said. “They’re all new!”
He wasn’t convinced that helped matters.
“How do you feel when someone smiles and talks to you?” I asked him as I knelt down to hold his tiny hands in mine. Our brown eyes looked back at each other.
“Good,” he said. “Happy.”
“Exactly! You feel welcomed, appreciated and drawn into their circle of friendliness. You feel safe. Be the person who smiles first.” I told him.
You can fill a room with comfort and joy with just your smile. How powerful is that?
It can be difficult to remember to smile. I find it even more so these days. Everyone is scared, stressed, feeling insecure and terrified to be scammed. That makes it difficult to really connect to the other beings around you. Especially when they go out of their way to piss you off.
I took my dogs out for a late walk last night and this random stranger decided to tear a strip out of me for letting my dogs pee on the lawn. It’s not even his lawn. When I told him to mind his own business, he called me a bitch.
“Fuck you, asshole!” popped out of my mouth before I even had a chance to rein the alpha in.
With that wicked gleam in my eye, I wanted to say “Do you really think being called a bitch by a <really low blow> like you bothers me? Zero fucks are given.”
But I bit my tongue. For once.
I walked away, seething. I had our next encounter all planned. Right down to the second when I would report him for harassment if he continued to shout at me. While I know not everyone is fond of animals, dogs aren’t illegal. And I pick up after my dogs. Always. Who the hell is this dicklesswad to tell me what to do?
I had been spiralling into a negative mindset before I took the dogs out, so perhaps I caused, created or attracted that spark of hostility. My mind was circling around someone who had hurt me, and I could feel the anger build. Those storm clouds had already gathered over my head. And then I just let it go. I don’t need the negative energy.
At the very least, we were both accountable.
Rather than sulk and keep a grip to that grudge, I actively challenged my thoughts. Why did it feel safer to hold on to the pain and keep that wound open? Did I want to remain feeling like a victim? Was verbally taking him down going to change the dynamics? Did I win if I bullied him and forced this fellow human to get his back up against the wall? While I might fling your shit back at you, I have no right to pelt you with my own shit. I reminded myself that God loves all of us, including him.
When I went out to Starbucks and the book store this morning, I was back in a happy frame of mind. I smiled and people smiled back, despite the frenzied shopping rush that has started. I poked around in the books and selected a few titles, before settling into the chairs by the big window. The sun was dazzlingly bright as it glinted off the new snow outside. The chairs are lined up to look out on a pond surrounded by trees. What a little piece of heaven. A handsome young father and his son sat down beside me, and I had to smile at their conversation. Flipping back and forth between English and Spanish, this young man was explaining jet lag to his kindergarten-aged boy. Sounded like family had just arrived for the holidays and they were sleeping in. How wonderful!
Once I had decided which books I was going to purchase, I went to look at the journals and cards. Nothing makes me happier than a fresh journal, a good pen and getting my thoughts down on real paper.
By the time I headed to the cash register, the lineup was at least twenty people deep. Five more lined up immediately after me. In front of me, a young mother was struggling to keep her toddler in the line.
I smiled at her and said, “If you want to walk around with your daughter, I will hold your place for you.”
Her surprised smile melted my heart. Gushing her thanks, she walked around the store for another ten minutes. I turned around to look for her when there were only a few others ahead of me and waved. She and her two year old cutie stepped back in line in front of me and counted the Christmas cards on the rack.
The young mom thanked me no less than ten times. I smiled and said, “My pleasure.”
Why is it getting harder and harder to show our humanity? Instead of leaving the store with all of us frazzled, we both left thinking about kindness and the power of a smile.
Smile at someone today. Even if you have to do it through gritted teeth at first. Our world needs more smiles.
P.S. I have barely begun my Christmas shopping so I will be plastering that smile back on my face tomorrow! It’s a good thing that I want a simple, yet elegant Christmas, this year. Being FEARLESS means material things just don’t hold the same intrinsic value.
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