I made it to the end of the busy cereal isle and stopped just short of running into a customer rounding the corner. Why did I go to the grocery store after 5 when everyone was just getting off work? I smiled her way with a silent “oops!”, and passed by her without giving our near collision a second thought. A few moments later I heard a kind voice just over my shoulder , “Thank you for smiling back”.
“Huh? Oh, you’re welcome.”
It took me a second to figure out what she was talking about. Remember the mall walkers back in the late 80s, early 90s? I know I’m dating myself here, but you know who I”m talking about. They’d go to the malls really early to get their morning exercise in. They were on a mission. No time to window shop or lollygag around. They were there with a purpose and if you got in there way, they’d mow you down. Do you have that mental picture? So, you say you’re STILL a mall walker? Nothing wrong with that my friend! Ha! Ha! That’s ME in the grocery store. My growing kids eat a lot, so no matter how I try to stock up for the month, I’m back in there at least twice a week to restock milk, cereal, bread, etc, even with a deep freezer. Since I’m there all the time, my mission is clear: Get in. Find the shortest route to what you need. Get out. I’m saying all of this to say that when I go to the store, I’m not thinking about socializing. I just want to get in, grab my food, do the self-checkout number and slide back out the double doors before they know what hit them. So, when the lady in the store, said, “Thank you for smiling back.”, my brain had to regroup and process that she was (1) talking to me and (2) referring to something I did.
“No one is really smilin’ today”, she said with a look of discontent in her eyes.
“Oh, they’re probably just cold. It’s really chilly out there today”, I said with a nervous chuckle. There was something about this woman. A sadness maybe. And, I know this may sound really corny, but I wanted to give her a hug and let her know that everything was going to be okay. I didn’t. Maybe I should have. I don’t know. Her comment didn’t seem like just a casual observation. It was more like a reaching out, a search for validation. “I’m over here! Don’t you see me?”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Our dialogue was complete.
I passed her again in the bread department as I was headed to checkout. “Have a nice day!” I called out her way.
She looked up with a half smile and then it faded.
I finished my checkout and made my way through the automatic doors, a lot slower this time. How many faces had I passed in the store that day? I could remember just one and that’s only because she reached out to me.
Life is busy, sure, but there are a lot of people out there that are hurting. A little eye contact, a smile, and a kind word or two go a long way. I know this from experience. Just yesterday a stranger gave me a smile when I needed it the most.
Share a smile today.
Blessings! (Keep doin’ what you love)