Yesterday when driving home I started thinking about the things that make me smile. Yes, the usual things that make me smile are probably like those of others such as: seeing my partner laugh until she cries, being with my grandbabies, watching my dogs play and/or listening to at least one of them snore, and a beautiful sunset. The day to day things that we sometimes take for granted. But as I was driving there was something else that occurred to me that makes me smile. Seeing two homeless guys sitting on a bench and laughing with each other, watching someone help an aging person get through a heavy door, hearing a little kid say something that probably embarrasses the crap outta their parents but is often very true, watching someone who has struggled to find some kind of peace in a world that has been so unkind to them, watching the face of someone who just received a small gift and the light of gratitude that radiates from their eyes. To some, these may seem trivial, maybe even silly, but when I find myself caught up in the stresses and anxiety provoking daily grind, these things alter my perspective and put a smile on my face.
In a world that feels upside down a lot of times, the most precious things are within our grasp and often don’t cost us anything but a moment in time. There have been many times that I have let moments pass me by but others I have embraced and stowed away in my memory so that when I have “a day”, I can think of them and reflect on experiences that evoke gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t perfect at it. As many others, I am a work in progress and am totally ok with that. However, if one person could just express a little kindness through action or even a smile or a nod in the direction of a stranger, it really does make a difference. The trick is though, to engage acknowledgement and/or a gesture of kindness without the expectation of something in return. One example that comes to mind to demonstrate this form of expectation is one day I was driving down the road and I politely let a stranger out of a parking lot when traffic was a nightmare. Once the driver pulled out of the parking lot, I patiently waited a gesture of some kind thanking me for the break I so graciously gave them. NO SUCH LUCK! The driver pulled out and went their merry little way without even so much of a wave or even a single digit acknowledgement. At first, I thought, you freaking jerk (yes that is what I actually said :)) I will never let you out again! However, I quickly caught myself and asked, well did you let the person out because you needed some sort of validation? Or, did you do it out of kindness? What hasn’t happened again is doing something like that based upon a need for validation or expectation of something in return, even if it is a simple wave or nod. Grant it, there are times when I may wish there was some recognition but that does nothing to promote my integrity or living example of just being kind because it’s a good and/or right thing to do.
In a world where I have either vicariously or upfront and personally, experienced prejudice, judgment, and ridicule I want to be and do better for others. Life is precious in so many ways and can sometimes be horrible, but we can do simple kind things to make it better for others. It really can be infectious and so can the feeling of doing something that brings a smile to the face of another. We don’t have to be perfect, don’t think it’s possible anyway, but we can show someone their worth simple acknowledgment like a smile, a wave, and even a nod in their direction. Now, if you are someone who doesn’t give two turds about validation, acknowledgment, a smile, a kind gesture, and even integrity, then so be it. Remember, everyone has a bad day, everyone experiences some form of sadness, and NO ONE is immune from life and what it can throw at you so you may wanna try giving a little kindness so that when you need it, and someday you will, it will be returned to you in abundance. How do I know that? Because for many years I struggled with who I was, who I wasn’t, and why did I have to be so different that people would treat me as if I was nothing but what I would remember was that one person who smiled at me, gave me a nod, helped me out with a kind word, and it made a difference. Today, I am grateful for my struggles. Today I am grateful to the person who gave me a place to sleep when it was cold out and I had nowhere to go; grateful for the people who saw enough in me to cheer me on and lift me up when life was dark and painful; grateful to the counselors and therapists that helped me gain the skills to get up and use my resiliency to become a better person despite my adversities. Finally, I am forever grateful to all of the clients and people that have shared their stories and life experiences with me, who trusted me enough to share their journeys with me. YOU are brave and valued!