There are many things that I am, but shy is not one of them. I am usually pretty friendly, and on a typical day I smile at most people I walk by. This wasn't always the case. Growing up in NYC, rarely did you smile at anyone while you walked down the street.If we did our face would hurt from smiling because there are too many people to smile at, and anyway no one is really looking at each other. Everyone is too busy trying to get somewhere. It would be like people in LA trying to smile at every driver they drive by in a car. It just doesn't happen. When I pass by people now though, I smile. You never know whose soul it might warm that day.
This has been an interesting time of year for friendliness. A lot of people are on edge with the state of our country. There has been so much division, haters and an uneasiness has fallen upon many of us. If nothing else, I think a smile might be the smallest gesture of "we are in this together" that is needed right now. I have been teaching mindfulness to the classes in my daughter's school. I teach the kids about eye contact, about noticing themselves and the people around them. As I left the school today I was thinking of my own lesson, and I took it to heart.
My husband and I both have aging parents, and we got some not so great news yesterday about one of them. I was in the middle of a lunch with someone when I got the call, and I was too shocked to finish my lunch. There is a time and a place fore faking it, and then there is a time to be real. Tears filled my eyes as I told her what I had just heard. I processed out loud as much as I could before losing all words. I excused myself and told her I was too distracted and needed to leave. There might not be the "right" words to say, but people understand.
Our heads have been occupied by confusion, sadness, worst case scenarios and prayers. We have been putting up our best stiff upper lips, going on about our days as best as we can. As I came home from taking the kids to school, I ran into a friend on his way to work. We went through the regular chit chat, and then I asked him how he was. He confessed that he is suffering. His mom is really sick and he is depressed. He battles between gratitude and "whats the point?”. For a quick moment, judgmentally I was taken aback. Why was he telling me all this? Then I realized he was being honest, and it was helpful for us both to hear each other.
Life is hard. One moment you see rainbows and shooting stars, and the next you could get hurt, or lose someone you love. It's not always fair, but no one is alone. As my father said yesterday when I complained about illness and aging, "No one leaves this planet alive." We need to make the best of the time here and when it sucks, we need to be gentle on ourselves. I passed by a total stranger after walking away from my friend, and she smiled at me. As I smiled back, and felt grateful. Her smile was a little gift and I needed it. It warmed my soul.