“Why do you always walk that way when this way is faster?”
My neighbor and friend looked at me through her glasses, blinking, utterly confused. We were on our way to class at the University of Washington and as usual, it was raining and cold.
I shrugged. “I like this way better. It makes me smile.”
Her eyes spun a ‘woa, she’s weirder than I thought’ before she turned to follow me. A few minutes later, “Has anything made you smile? Just want to be sure I’m not missing something.”
“Almost there," I said.
I was sure I heard her moan but I chose to ignore it. It wouldn’t be long. She would understand soon. Very soon. Or so I hoped.
The window to the barbershop was large. Maybe as large as entire car. I had walked this way for weeks now and every chance I got, I passed by their window. At first, I just turned and gave the two men inside a shy smile but after about a week, when they began to return my joy, it grew into a full-fledged smile, the kind that warms you from the inside out. They looked like they had found the same joy themselves. I saw it day after day in their sparkling eyes and of course, their smiles. So on this particular day, I was passing by with a friend. It was something I hadn’t done before. I could hardly wait.
I stopped and tapped on the glass with my knuckles. My friend stood beside me, not saying a word. First one barber, then the other, turned toward the window to see who was there and not a second later both of their faces erupted into sparkles. I waved my mittened hands, my heart warmed by our connection. I didn’t even know their names, but I knew their hearts and they were filled with kindness.
“Are they friend’s of your dad?”
“Then how’d you meet them?
“You mean, you don’t know them? I don’t get it. You just waved and they waved back like you were old friends.”
“I’ve never spoken with them. I just see them everyday on my way to class, and we share smiles.”
“You smile at strangers?”
“They aren’t strangers anymore. Not after the first smile. And that was weeks ago.”
I think that’s when I felt the second, ‘woa, she really is weirder than I thought.’ But I didn’t mind. My heart was on fire and that was all that really mattered to me.
* * *
My Wednesday Wish for You?
To connect with a stranger this week. And not on the internet or on the phone (although such connections are fun, too!) but the old-fashioned way—in person. Smile with your genuine eyes, let someone you don’t know feel the kindness in your heart. And don’t worry if they don’t take it the right way. We can’t control what others think. Just worry about getting yourself right. Center yourself in your heart, in that place that cares about others and wants the world to be a better, more friendly place. Feel that. Be there. And then, with that intent, give it away. As a smile. To a stranger. And watch your world grow smaller, kinder, and more caring…with every smile you share.
* * *
p.s. the barbershop guys of my college years became my dear friends. We shared family joys and sorrows, celebrated birthdays, exchanged Christmas presents, and many years later, I even invited them to my wedding. The way I see it, if we dare to open our hearts, we give strangers the chance to affect our worlds for the better. Guy and Rick did mine—two beautiful people I will have with me in my heart for the rest of my life. If you are out there Guy and Rick, I'm still waving!:)