…give them one of yours.
I saw this recently on a greetings card in a shop. I am reminded of it now as I prepare to fly to the US on Wednesday for a gathering of the monastics of our Order at Shasta Abbey in California. International travel can be a stressful event for many, and as I get older I am certainly less blasé about it myself. Folk are not at their best when they are worried and anxious, and I find it good to try and remember this when people are blocking the gangway with their luggage or bumping into me as they pass. Rather than scowl at them (even if only inwardly) I prefer to acknowledge them with a smile and give them a hand if it’s needed. It certainly makes my journey more pleasant and relaxed.
Meeting someone’s eye and smiling seems such a small thing but can have a deep effect on both the giver and receiver. We never know when this simple human connection can make all the difference in someone’s life.
To some people this comes naturally, others have to work a bit at it. I can sometimes sit down next to a person for a three-hour train journey and have no idea what they look like until we both get up at the end of the journey – a bit odd really, when you think about it.
It can also be a cultural thing. I was born and brought up in London. When I went to university in Sheffield I can remember being rather anxious when a woman got on a relatively empty bus and sat next to me. If you are a fellow Londoner you’ll know what I mean. If you are from Sheffield you’ll know that she was probably just being companionable (she was).
Making contact with another human being in a friendly way has a beneficial effect on both and reminds us of our interconnectedness. So let’s not keep our smiles to ourselves.