Friday, May 10, 2013

A Smile is Just a Smile

A Smile is Just a Smile

Fifteen eye contacts, four smiles and two hellos.  That’s what I received from five days of walking from my hotel near Grafton Street in Dublin to a friend’s house for a writing workshop—a 25-minute walk there and back.  I started counting to entertain myself.

See, I love smiles.  I love giving them, and I love getting them.  So, this was kind of an experiment for me.  I’ve been to Ireland before, but this was the first time I’ve spent the entire time in Dublin.  And yes, the Irish are friendly people, but Dublin is a city, and like people everywhere, they’re rushing around, trying to get to work, chatting on cell phones, and pretty much lost in their own little worlds.  So, it’s not all that unusual to get only minimal eye contact in 370 minutes of walking.  In fact, I was quite surprised—and delighted—that two people actually smiled and said hello during a couple of my morning treks. 

I wonder if they have any idea how good that made me feel?  I don’t think people realize the power of their smiles.  That simple connection between two strangers can change an ordinary day to an extraordinary one.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking!  It’s not safe to make eye contact with strangers.  You never know if someone could be a psychopath, and you can make yourself a target just by acknowledging him/her. 

Well, I suppose that’s possible.  You could be unlucky enough to smile at the wrong person—and suddenly you’ve become their next obsession.  But if I’m going to live life thinking like that, I might as well crawl into a cave and become a hermit.  And I don’t want to live like that.  I believe we’re all put here for a purpose, and we meet people for a destined reason—in some little way, they change you…make you a better person. 

I like to talk to strangers.  While in Dublin, I struck up conversations with several people—a young Irishman on Grafton Street who studied at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, a man who ran a charity shop across from Trinity College, a female customer in the same shop, an attractive young salesclerk in a trendy shop on Grafton Street, two Norwegian men in an upscale shoe store, a garrulous taxi driver who totally made my day—we talked politics, gun control, books, the high cost of drinking in pubs, the Virginia Tech massacre. As you can imagine, not all of these conversations were light and airy, but I left each person, feeling connected to them in a universal way.  And I’m glad I took the opportunity to converse with them.  I walked away, feeling like I’d learned from them in some small way.  That we were connected.

I’m not saying everybody should engage strangers in deep conversations every chance they get.  It’s not in everyone’s personality to do that.  But what I am saying is don’t ever underestimate the power of eye contact and a smile.  Try it sometime—I guarantee that when you get a smile back from a stranger, your day will feel just a little bit better.  J J J J

Okay, so I chose a winner for my April website contest, but unfortunately, I haven’t heard from her.  So…Karen Farmer, if you’re reading this, contact me at and give me your address so I can send out your prizes.  Also, I need to know which book you want, and if you want print or digital.

If I don’t hear from Karen by next week, I’ll draw another name.

Hope all of you have a blessed May.