Ever wonder why people don’t smile anymore ? Pointless , random , warm welcoming smiles at a bus stop, or the subway, or the parking lot while you’re pulling out your car – just to give a good kick start to the day or to end the day on a good and thankful note?
Even a thought on these lines seem to have diminished and on some level completely extinguished from the human race – only very rarely to be found on the faces of a few jewels. They reside and struggle in the same crowds that we do, battling the same circumstances and facing the similar miseries of a monotonous life ( sometimes worse!) – yet manage to pass on the hope of a promising tommorow just through a smile at random junctions or crossroads where we bump into them.
Sadly, this mode of an emotional connection between two individuals over a warm smile has become so rare that we misconceive such gestures for plain creepiness !! When graced with such warmth, we tend to either not smile back in fear of provoking something disastrous or walk in hurried steps in the opposite direction pretending to have not noticed anything at all. What’s worse – we are so blinded by the consistent darkness in the form of negativity around us that we are no longer capable of showing the courage , or at the least , the heart – to hammer a crack or punch a hole for the light to come in.
We were on a vacation once – decided to take a train from Mumbai to Kerala just for the heck of it! We were quite a handful of members and a 24 hour ( or more) ride on a train with cousins sounded way more exciting than a 1 hour flight ( that took you home sooner!) where all you could possibly do is stare out your window at the clouds in silence. The train pulled over at a station somewhere between Mumbai and Goa for a bit. A young boy ( aged somewhere between 5-6 if I’m not mistaken) was selling sandwiches and had the most radiant smile that I have ever come across! He kept marketing his sandwiches from window to window with that unbearably contagious smile of his – most of the passengers asked him to move on front without buying anything from him while a few indulged in purchase. However , not one person seemed to have look into his precious innocent eyes or notice his heart wrenching smile – most of them didn’t bother to even look at him while handing over the cash.
My eyes were stuck onto him from the very time that he caught my attention and I couldn’t help but smile back instinctively even though I knew he hadn’t seen me yet. The person sitting next to me noticed the same ( judging by her further comments – I probably looked retarded to her for smiling pointlessly at someone.) ” He’s trained to do that you know ” she said. My eyes still bewildered by the little lad’s innocence and my mind putting together a million scenarios like a jigsaw, as to why he must be doing this for a living at such a tender age, I ignorantly responded “hmmmm?” “He’s trained to flash the smile so that you are forced to buy something from him. Or even better – get some cash out of your pocket without having to sell anything at all! Allow him to linger a bit longer around you and you will find things missing from your purse. They’re all the same, these beggars , road sellers etc., It’s the most happening billion dollar industry.” – She had just finished her sentence ( and I was just beginning to think if this is what she teaches her children as well…) when the little boy had reached our window, again with that warm smile and a basket full of sandwiches. No one looked up , or purchased and one of us asked him to go ahead to the next window. I took a note out of my purse and handed it over to him – the cash was probably worth two sandwiches ( or so I thought) ‘cuz his smile widened and he immediately handed over two of the edibles. I nodded with a smile and asked him to keep both the sandwiches, as well as the money. He seemed to be confused with my statement ( or with my wide non – ready – to – reduce – in – size smile !) and said ” I cannot take the note if you don’t take the sandwiches.” Having said that he smiled and handed over the sandwiches and moved forward to the next window. I overheard the actual price of a sandwich from a person walking by and suddenly realized he had given me two for the price of one! I struggled to stick my head out of the bars to reach out to him as the train started to pull off the station – this time he noticed and smiled even wider and waved at me – leaving my heart filled with warmth and further igniting a beautiful flame onto the sparks of hope that I carry within me. The li’l cutie had just gifted me a free sandwich – for constantly smiling at him or maybe just for returning his smile – I guess I’ll never really know why.
” If smiling got you an extra sandwich , I need to try that one the next time that I am on a train !!! ” said a friend of mine when I narrated this story to her. I got me a sandwich – but I was more eager to know what that kid took away from me smiling back at him. And I hope and pray ( even today) that it was everything that I wanted him to take away from it and carry along with him on this journey that we call life.
My son’s first instinct when his eyes meets someone – irrespective of age, place or situation – is to smile.
I think that’s just a super awesome reflex he has or he takes on after his mother – either ways I’m happy. Out of the million individuals that he has flashed his tiny button sized teeth to – a handful of adults have responded with a smile or touch and just about 5 kids ( older than him) have come forth to play ( Yes. I have counted ‘cuz it matters to me!). I respect and understand the adults who react the way they do due to their own inhibitions of striking a conversation with a child they don’t know of – probably even afraid of how the parent might react ( it’s a dirty vicious cycle, this one). One could argue that it is for the purpose of safety – and I can very well acknowledge where that’s coming from – I am all for safety, I’ve got two children of my own.
Having said that, the lady sitting beside me on the train was concerned and was trying to keep me safe too – she managed to see in that innocent smile what I cannot and WILL not, without a second and very deep thought. I too may have started perceiving the situation just like she did that day – but life and that beautiful little boy gave me a second chance to ponder over my perception and further confirm the same.
Just look around. It is true. There is darkness. There is chaos – There is chaos within the darkness in almost every corner of this beautiful planet and it seems to grow at an accelerating rate each day – All the more reason for us to be lighting it up with smiles but ironically the same is probably the biggest excuse we give ourselves to be so judgmental and pessimistic about everything and every person we come across. So much so that smiling randomly has become an uncommon practice today and most regretfully when it seems to be one of the most essential and strongest weapons to defend our hopes within in today’s times.
Food for thought – When the lights are turned down in a room and we need to find something what do we do? We turn on the lights. Why not apply the same rule while we struggle in the chaotic darkness around us? A smile works brighter than a light – It might not end the chaos but it sure gives the spark required to ease it – And what do a lot of sparks do when they come together? – They ignite a burning flame that generously lightens up the darkness – The light helps you see the chaos and maybe work more easily & efficiently towards undoing it. It might not actually solve the struggle but it sure gives the required strength needed to go on. It gives hope. A smile gives hope. A smile IS hope.
” Today, give a stranger your smile, it might be the only sunshine he sees all day.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Until next time – signing off with a smile 🙂