I can refute Stanley Gordon West’s adage, ‘Smile and the world smiles with you,’ as I can categorically prove that it can at times be a case of, ‘smile and you smile alone.’
Yes, I can easily smile when I think about the number of times individuals have not greeted me in return, while on my daily power-walks. I can also categorically say that the non-response never put me off my cheery greeting every time I saw the same individual.
I often put it down to the fact that the recipient could be a hundred miles away in their thoughts, trying to solve a problem; was caught off guard with my greeting; just may have had a bad start to the morning or umpteen other reasons. I’m actually not sure if I ever stopped to ponder on whether I would eventually crack through the veneer of, for want of a better word, the non-smilers, and receive a positive response. Perhaps, deep down, I may have secretly hoped it would happen.
I have a number of friends who would occasionally join me on my walk and there was a time when a good friend regularly joined my exercise regimen. He, at first, did not say much but was quite aware of the few non-smilers.
There was a sun-tanned, greying man who would regularly pass us walking in the opposite direction and I would gaily greet him with a quick, ‘good morning. ’ His face often looked severe and at times, haggard, and, if he heard me, he never acknowledged it. This went on for a month or so but I still greeted him every time we saw him.
One day however, he suddenly smiled in return and wished us, ‘good morning.’ His eyes crinkled with laughter lines and his tanned face virtually beamed. Even though the exchange took barely a few seconds, I couldn’t help smiling back even more broadly at him.
Once past, my friend and I looked at each other in astonishment. We shared in the satisfaction that we finally broke through his façade. It was akin to winning a skirmish and we actually laughed aloud in sheer disbelief and delight. He was the topic of conversation for the rest of the walk and we couldn’t help wondering what caused the change of demeanour. We conjectured on whether he’d won the lottery; he’d met the woman of his dreams; she agreed to marry him; a business venture reaped some profit or he was happy about going on vacation. Whatever the reason, he continued to greet us, after that day, with a happy face.
Oddly enough, another die-hard individual who ignored us and would walk with her head down was a girl barely out of her teens. Her dark wavy hair was parted in the middle and tied back, her shoulders were hunched and she never raised her head but looked at the ground as she walked. She appeared determined not to make eye-contact with anyone.
I nevertheless, always called out a cheery ‘good morning,’ but she never acknowledged the greeting. This went on for a good six months or so. One day, when I was walking on my own, I spied her in the distance and felt disheartened and uncharacteristically decided to just walk past without saying anything.
To this day, I still have no idea why but as I began to head past her without saying anything, she looked up with a radiant smile and said, ‘good morning!’
Not only did she catch me off-guard, but I couldn’t help noting the difference the smile made to her usually downcast demeanour. I had never seen her teeth and there they were, gleaming in a neat row and her smile reached her eyes and they glowed with a light. I was so taken aback that I almost forgot to respond. Fortunately, I was able to return the smile in time and noted that she was actually saying something to me.
I snapped to attention and realised that she had said it was a beautiful day. Continuing past each other, I managed to turn around and quickly agree.
Walking on at my usual quick pace, I pondered at the sudden change of events. I realised that I was still smiling and mentally made a note to relate the event to my absent friend. My mind however, was a whirlwind of thoughts. How was it that the only time that I felt dispirited and had made a decision NOT to greet her, she had obviously made up her mind to cheerfully wish me a good morning. Why? What had changed? Why this morning of all mornings? I asked those questions of myself whenever I pondered about that day.
If she has conspired to floor me with her surprising move, she certainly succeeded. And what a difference the smile made to her entire facial features! Although it seemed like a minor miracle, I felt oddly humbled rather than elated at the entire episode. All the way back home, I seesawed between laughing with inner delight and puzzling over the scenario.
The adage, ‘never say die!’ is certainly true for this entire experience.
© 2013 Wendy Robinson
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does! ~ William James